Achieving the Dream—the national, nonprofit leader in championing evidence-based institutional improvement—has seen firsthand what happens when there is a long-term, sustainable commitment to improving student success. Achievement gaps close. Momentum builds. Lives change. Neighborhoods flourish.
Student success means so much more than a personal goal secured – It means improved skills, better employability, and economic growth for families, communities and our nation as a whole.
Conceived as an initiative in 2004 by Lumina Foundation and seven founding partner organizations, Achieving the Dream now leads the most comprehensive non-governmental reform movement for student success in higher education history. Together with our Network of over 277 institutions of higher education, 75 coaches and advisors, and numerous investors and partners working throughout 44 states and the District of Columbia we are helping more than 4 million community college students have a better chance of realizing greater economic opportunity and achieving their dreams.
Why We Do What We Do
Nearly one-half of all students seeking higher education choose a community college. Fewer than half of those students actually finish what they start.
Community colleges remain the nation’s gateways to good jobs for millions of students who dream of a better tomorrow. Yet too often these dreams are cut short.
For the first time in our history, the current generation of college-aged Americans will be less educated than their parents’ generation. Those without an education will be unable to compete in a national landscape that more than ever before demands high-level job skills.
A nation in which community colleges are highly valued for preserving access and ensuring that their students, especially low-income students and students of color, achieve their goals for academic success, personal growth, and economic opportunity.
To lead and support a national network of community colleges to achieve sustainable institutional transformation through sharing knowledge, innovative solutions and effective practices and policies leading to improved outcomes for all students.
- Organizational Community: We are committed to the success of each other and the full ATD team. Together, we create an empowering,collaborative,and trusting atmosphere where staff feel connected and respected. We believe meaningful change can be achieved through purposeful partnerships and relationships.
- Integrity: We demonstrate honesty and trustworthiness in all of our actions. We lead by example and consistently hold ourselves accountable to one another.
- Equity: We proactively seek to create an equitable and inclusive environment within ATD. We highly value and appreciate our differences and create an environment grounded in the principles of fairness where all staff can thrive.
- Reflective Practice and Improvement: We believe in evidence informed decisions,and feedback. As such,we know that learning,reflection and adaptation to evolving circumstances are critical to ATD's success. We build organizational capacity, sustainability,and impact through creative and innovative approaches.
Community colleges are an indispensable asset in our nation’s efforts to ensure and preserve access to higher education and success for all students, particularly students of color, low-income students, and other historically underrepresented student populations. However, student access and success in higher education continues to be impacted by the effects of structural racism and systemic poverty. Achievement gaps among student groups reflect structural inequities that are often the result of historic and systemic social injustices. These inequities typically manifest themselves as the unintended or indirect consequences of unexamined institutional or social policies.
Achieving the Dream believes that access to a high quality education in an inclusive environment is the right of all individuals and imperative for the continued advancement of a strong democracy and workforce. Achieving the Dream also believes higher education institutions have an obligation to work toward equity for their students. Equity is grounded in the principle of fairness. In higher education, equity refers to ensuring that each student receives what they need to be successful through the intentional design of the college experience.
Achieving the Dream expects colleges to dismantle the barriers facing underserved students. Colleges must routinely scrutinize structural barriers to equity and invest in equity-minded policies, practices, and behaviors that lead to success for all students.
 Examples of historically underrepresented students include but are not limited to: first-generation, low-income, students of color; adult students; marginalized orientations, gender identities, and intersex students; students with second-language backgrounds; undocumented students; veterans; students with disabilities; students with dependents; foster care youth; and formerly and currently incarcerated students.