Breaking Down Barriers: New White Paper Examines Racial Equity in Higher Ed

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Coalition building and collaboration at the federal level may help lead the charge for equity-centered admission and higher education policies.

That assessment was shared last month by panelists and attendees at a Washington, DC, event marking the release of a new white paper examining racial equity and barriers to postsecondary education for minority students.

The paper was released by the Young Invincibles, a bipartisan nonprofit focused on the needs of young people ages 18-34. Through policy research and analysis, the organization advocates for a broad range of policy priorities, including access to postsecondary education — a crucial element for this age group.

Congressman Bobby Scott (D-Va.) opened the event with a short speech highlighting the importance of equity and federal support for equity. He noted his concern for the decreasing purchasing power of the Pell Grant, something that used to allow young people to “work their way through college.”

“They could get a Pell, get a summer job, and cover the costs of tuition,” Scott told attendees. “It isn’t like that anymore.”

Panelists, including speakers from the Education Trust, National Council of La Raza, and congressional education policy staffers, went on provide commentary on the white paper and dive deeper into the importance of policies that serve a variety of students. One key element highlighted in the paper? The idea that race has been relevant throughout American history, and that the context of race in America is directly related to equity and reducing barriers to postsecondary education.

The speakers went on to address several related topics, including the Young Invincibles policy agenda — which dovetails with much of NACAC’s work. The need to protect students from predatory schools and strategies to remove financial barriers to higher education were also discussed.

Oftentimes, financial concerns are bigger barriers to entry than academic concerns, which one panelist noted is the reason that “the people we’re going to depend on to lead the country are being left behind.”

While the paper provides a comprehensive analysis of barriers, the panelists were asked to identify any areas that may have been missing. One panelist mentioned that the higher education world simply lacks good, robust data. Without data that can be parsed through efficiently and effectively, some trends cannot be highlighted.

Read the full white paper.

Liz Glaser is NACAC’s government relations manager. She can be reached at lglaser@nacacnet.org.

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