Achieving the Dream calls for colleges to be drivers of equitable change

 

Today Achieving the Dream (ATD) announced the release of a new equity statement that calls for a greater and more intentional focus on equity across its network of more than 300 community colleges. Equity, which has been ATD’s fundamental guiding principle since our founding in 2004, must continue to be the driving force of ATD’s work and the central operating focus of its partner institutions if the nation is to achieve the educational, economic, and social benefits of higher education for our nation’s students.

The statement, which was developed by ATD with input from the field and approved by its Board of Directors, says that “when colleges intentionally design and implement antiracist and just structures, policies, and practices that combat oppression, students and their communities thrive.” The statement supports the advancement of ATD’s new strategic vision that aims to support Network colleges in building vibrant communities through institutional transformation that advances them as profoundly accessible community hubs of learning, credentialing, and economic mobility that eliminate inequities in students’ educational and workforce outcomes.

“As an organization founded to advance equity and student success in higher education, ATD’s role is not only to continually champion the successes of our colleges but also to catalyze the next arc of our student success journey,” said Dr. Karen A. Stout, ATD’s president and CEO.

Dr. Stout notes in a letter introducing the equity statement that the purpose of the statement is to “set the direction we expect our colleges to navigate: a direction that reinforces an institution-wide commitment to transformational change that eliminates systemic barriers, addresses student needs, and increases social justice and equity.”

ATD Network colleges are seeing accelerated gains in overall student success, yet significant equity gaps persist for racially marginalized and poverty impacted students. This not only impacts students, but also their families and the communities in which they live. Now is the time to move from knowing the data to intentionally taking more concrete action to address these gaps.

“Community colleges are the gateway to upward social and economic mobility for so many students in our communities,” said Dr. Alex Johnson, president of Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland, Ohio, and ATD Board President. “But we have to do a better job of reaching those who still don’t see postsecondary education as a real possibility and then create programs and pathways that respond to the real lives of those students.”

ATD provides a broad range of equity resources, consulting and coaching services customized to the context and need of each institution. ATD has established leadership academies focused on advancing equity and works with colleges to review data and co-create a strategic roadmap with prioritized recommendations on policy, practice, and program changes. As part of its focus on creating more equitable outcomes in colleges nationwide, ATD also leads a multiyear effort to bolster student outcomes at 33 Tribal Colleges and Universities in the ATD Network.

“Seventy-five years ago, the Truman Commission called for community colleges to overcome the social, racial, geographic and economic barriers so many students faced,” said Dr. Stout. “We need to make equity our primary focus, work systemically to solve the problems, and address root causes of inequities to ensure that it doesn’t take another 75 years to realize that vision.”

Read the full equity statement, including a glossary of terms and an introductory letter from Dr. Karen A. Stout, here.

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