With FY21 Budget, IL Lawmakers Affirm Commitment to Higher Ed Amid Crisis

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During this difficult time of prolonged mourning, Illinois' higher education system received a bit of good news this week. Despite bleak state revenue forecasts, with some projecting a budget shortfall as great as $7.4 billion in fiscal year 2021, legislators last Sunday passed a budget that maintains level funding for higher education, providing a sense of stability to students and institutions in an otherwise uncertain time.

In the past, budget crises and recessions have resulted in states making heavy cuts to higher education, with low-income students and students of color largely bearing the increased costs of college. In the face of COVID-19, several states are seeing history repeat itself. Colorado, Ohio, New Jersey, and others have proposed significant cuts to their higher education budgets. However, in this year's budget, the Illinois legislature chose a different path. While the budget will rely on additional federal relief, if the federal government does their part, level-funding will help keep the doors to higher education open for most Illinois students.

Notable highlights related to the Partnership's legislative priorities include:

  • $451 million allocated for the Monetary Award Program (MAP)
  • $50 million in discretionary federal funds allocated to higher education
  • Public university operations funded at FY20 levels
  • 5% increase to Illinois Community College Board (ICCB)
  • Creation of a college emergency grant program

As we celebrate Illinois maintaining its higher education investment during this crisis, this first step - a critical one in paving the way for a full, equitable recovery - must be one among other key actions to ensure adequate and equitable funding for the state's colleges and universities well into the future. Throughout and moving beyond this crisis, lawmakers will have to be responsive to the needs of financially-vulnerable students and institutions. Level-funding alone will not help Illinois address affordability and access for all Illinoisans, eliminate disparities in college completion that have existed within our institutions for decades, or reach our 2025 college degree attainment goals. To do so, Illinois must continue to distribute federal and state resources equitably, ensuring that low-income students have the support they need to enroll, persist, and graduate, and that lower-resourced institutions, which disproportionately serve large numbers of low-income students – including those in our state's diverse community college system – have adequate funding.

Our state legislators' show of support for a stable higher education system could not come at a more pivotal time: as the state reels from the fallout of an unprecedented public health crisis that will have serious economic implications for some time. Amidst all of this, Illinois colleges and universities – with significant strains on existing resources – have persisted in carrying on their missions, deploying critical resources to students and community members who have been most impacted by the virus and demonstrating their unique value to the future vitality of our state. As Illinois and federal lawmakers face the ongoing impact of COVID-19, their continued commitment to and investment in higher education will be critical to positioning Illinois for a faster and more robust economic recovery. 
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No Matter Where You Are, Illinois Colleges & Universities Matter

Lisa Castillo Richmond, PCC Managing Director | May 19, 2020

While the coronavirus pandemic has wreaked havoc on daily life for people across the globe, it has also brought to light the best of humanity, perhaps especially within higher education. In recent weeks, Illinois colleges and universities have carried on their missions by deploying critical resources to aid in students' ability to continue progressing toward degrees. It has become painfully clear how existing societal inequities in access to housing, food, healthcare, and employment have both been laid bare and exacerbated by COVID-19. Because of this, colleges and universities have mobilized overnight to continue academic programming, while working around the clock to meet the needs of those within their communities who have been most affected. It is because of Illinois' diverse and expansive higher education system that the state's pandemic response has been so comprehensive, with resources deployed so quickly and efficiently to all corners of the state.

The speed with which everything changed was dizzying. Closing campuses, which seemed unthinkable at the start of the semester and unlikely one month later, became inevitable by the beginning of March. Institutions, many of which offered very few courses online at the time, moved all their instruction and programming to a virtual environment in the matter of a week. Upon campus closures, students dispersed across the state and beyond, often facing new financial and environmental challenges that affected their learning. Technology had to be acquired, learned, and deployed with changes communicated to thousands. Gatherings of all kinds were postponed and canceled, while institutional policies had to be reconsidered. Through it all, our colleges and universities made it happen. Classes were convened virtually, coursework was completed, students advanced and many, now, have graduated.

But what happened in the classroom was just the beginning. Today, our colleges are not only expansive institutions of higher learning, but also significant providers of an array of social services and basic needs for students and their families. Institutions organized to increase access via telehealth services, supporting students with food insecurity through drive-thru food pantries, and continuing to pay student workers through the end of the academic term. They deployed emergency funds to cover rent, groceries, lost income, and costs associated with shifting to virtual learning, while giving out thousands of laptops, tablets and WiFi hotspots to support student connectivity and access to course materials.

Read some of the IL Higher Ed Matters stories below:​​​​​​​​​​​​

 
Amid this pandemic, we've also seen how the work and responsibility of higher education extends beyond the confines of the campus into their neighboring communities, where they provide solutions and create knowledge broadly. Advanced manufacturing equipment and 3-D printers were used across colleges and universities to produce personal protective equipment for healthcare providers. Supplies and meals were donated. New programs were launched to train Illinoisans for jobs that would be created to enable citizen movement after lockdown and prior to widespread vaccination. Thousands of faculty and alumni from dozens of institutions are working in medicine, immunology, epidemiology, infectious disease, public health policy, and other disciplines in hospitals, clinics, labs, and statehouses across the country. They are architects transforming spaces for public health purposes. They are scholars, contributing research that helps identify the many ways in which we can move from lockdown and shutdown to recovery and a more equitable society.

Illinois' colleges and universities will be at the forefront of that recovery. They will be the places to which Illinois' students return, and where the state's workforce turns to reskill or upskill for the jobs of tomorrow. They will be where breakthroughs are produced that will improve the lives of citizens. They will be places of investment, where science, innovation, and imagination will be used to limit the impacts of the next pandemic. Illinois' economic recovery depends on a healthy, thriving, and diverse network of colleges and universities that is accessible and affordable to all, and that extends from Rockford to Carbondale and from Quincy to Chicago. #ILHigherEdMatters

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Illinois Higher Ed Matters Week: Recognizing Illinois’ Higher Ed Heroes

The Partnership for College Completion (PCC) is pleased to announce May 11-15, 2020 as Illinois Higher Ed Matters Week – highlighting the many ways colleges and universities across the state are serving students and their local, state, and national communities during the COVID-19 crisis.

During Illinois Higher Ed Matters Week, institutions are sharing their stories of – what PCC calls "higher ed heroism" – to call attention to the critical importance of Illinois' public and private nonprofit 2- and 4-year institutions of higher education to the state's recovery from this unprecedented event.

As COVID-19 continues to make a devastating and disproportionate impact on communities across socioeconomic and racial lines, broader structural inequities have been cast under a bright light and the unstable financial situation in which many of Illinois students live has been made even more so.

In response, Illinois colleges and universities have worked to adapt quickly to this new landscape and serve current and incoming students and communities not just in an educating capacity but as a compassionate community partner and provider of critical services and resources.

The stories of heroism in Illinois' higher education system must be told.

Following the conclusion of Illinois Higher Ed Matters Week, PCC will be blogging about the collection of #ILHigherEdMatters stories shared as part of the campaign.

Learn more about the campaign here.

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For More Equitable Access, Test-Optional Approaches are Needed Statewide in Wake of Covid-19

Every student who aspires to college should have equitable access to the career pathway of their choice. But the reality is this: Students with more time, money, and technology to prepare for the SAT and ACT will always have an advantage over their peers. That is more true now than ever, in a context in which schools are closed and students do not have the same ability to prep for or take the test due to the Covid-19 public health crisis. As recently as this spring, the National Association for College Admission Counseling rightfully raised its own concerns over inequities that will inevitably arise from the College Board and ACT's proposal for home administration of SAT and ACT tests this fall. In such settings, low-income students, less likely to have access to the devices and internet connection necessary to take such tests, would further be put at a disadvantage. In the wake of the pandemic and its still-evolving fallout, colleges and universities should ensure prospective students have equitable access to their institution, by eliminating the requirement to submit ACT or SAT scores in their application packages.

Beginning with Knox College in 2005, over a dozen Illinois institutions have recognized that requiring SAT/ACT scores contribute to inequality by barring qualified students from admission and have moved to test-optional admission practices. But until all institutions adopt more equitable approaches, not all students – particularly those who are Black, Latinx, or low-income – will have access to the many higher education options Illinois has to offer. Without statewide action, the students most negatively impacted by COVID-19 - many of whom are low-income and students of color - will be blocked from admission to Illinois' more selective institutions.

In the wake of COVID-19, Illinois can ensure equitable access to public universities across the state by implementing a uniform, test-optional admissions policy for the next three years.

​IL Colleges and Universities That Have Adopted Test Optional Practices (as of May 20, 2020)

American Academy of the Art -- No test required (just application, interview, HS degree with transcript)
Augustana College -- Test-optional for applicants with 3.0+ GPA; must complete admissions interview; not for international students
​​Columbia College -- Test-optional (though uses test for merit-based scholarships), students take on-campus placement tests once admitted
​​DePaul University -- Test-optional
Illinois College -- Test-optional
Knox College -- Test-optional, still required for home-schooled students
​​Lake Forest College -- Test-optional and required to conduct an interview; still required for home-schooled and international
McKendree University -- Test-optional; still required for international, homeschooled, if have lower than 3.0, wish to receive some merit-based scholarships or be considered for Honors program
Monmouth College -- Test-optional
National Louis University -- No test required (need 2.0 GPA to qualify for admission)​
Northeastern University -- No standardized test score required for Fall 2020 enrollment application. → Details: "Effective immediately, Northeastern's Fall 2020 admissions decisions will be made strictly using grade-point average and curriculum."
Northern Illinois University -- "Test-blind" starting Fall 2021 freshman class
Quincy University -- Test-optional → Details: "For admission to the university in fall 2020, the new QU test-optional admissions policy only affects students who cannot take a standardized test. Beginning with admissions for fall 2021, students will not be required to submit test scores, though they will have the option to do so"
Southern Illinois University - Carbondale -- Test-optional (must have over 2.75 GPA)
Tribeca Flashpoint College -- Test optional
University of Chicago -- Test-optional
Western Illinois University -- Test-optional
Chicago State University
University of St. Francis -– Test-optional → Details: "New in 2020 & 21. With several dates for the SAT and ACT canceled in the face of COVID-19, USF has waived the requirement for those test scores for incoming freshmen."
Bradley University -- Test-optional → Details: Beginning with students applying for fall 2021 enrollment at Bradley University, undergraduate applicants will no longer be required to submit standardized test scores, ACT or SAT, for admission.
Dominican University -- Test-optional → Details: Will not require ACT and/or SAT scores for Fall 2020 and 2021 admissions
​​​​​​​Add'l Sources: ​https://www.nprillinois.org/post/put-down-your-pencils-many-il-schools-join-test-optional-trend#stream/0http://fairtest.org/university/optional/statehttps://www.nacacnet.org/college-admission-status-coronavirushttps://www.nacacnet.org/college-admission-status-coronavirusUpdate needed?
Email PCC Senior Communications Manager, Bravetta Hassell at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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COVID-19 & Admissions: Webinar Highlights and Resources

Revisit or Share the Webinar Recording Here: 
COVID-19 Impacts on Entering College Freshmen in 2020
 

WEBINAR HIGHLIGHTS

"Our flexibility during this time will make things better and make things bearable for students." - Tonishea Terry-Jackson, Dean of Enrollment Management, Kennedy-King College

While Covid-19 continues to have broad impact on how institutions are operating and delivering education to current students, currently, most panelists said the pandemic has not had a significant impact on their institution's admissions processes and timelines. Still key deadlines are being treated with fluidity as institutions explore how they can best serve admitted and prospective students in a virtual environment.

Moving Ever More Online, More Flexible
From Admitted Student Day at National Louis University, to financial aid counseling meetings at Arrupe College of Loyola University of Chicago, to Northeastern Illinois University's freshman orientation sessions and summer bridge program -- programs and services for admitted and prospective students are being shifted online. At National Louis, for example, admitted students and their families can visit YouTube for tutorials on navigating the student portal, understanding their award letter, and more.

Seeing the Silver Lining
The hope is that once institutions have adjusted to the disruption caused by COVID-19, leaders can take a step back and observe the opportunities created by this challenging time, said Dr. Carlos Gooden, Director of Admissions and Recruitment at Chicago State University. Practices that institutions traditionally have been unable or unwilling to do – well, now they are considering.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Resources Shared During Webinar
Strive Virtual College Exploration Week
Monday, April 20 - Thursday, April 23, 2020: 300+ colleges from 44 states and 10 countries. There will be 96 sessions over 4 days, and there will be day and evening options. The panel presentations cover a range of topics for juniors and underclassmen. It is free and open to students nationwide. Registration for students and parents is now live at www.strivescan.com/virtual.

IBHE, ICCB, ISBE Guidance
Illinois Board of Higher Education, Illinois Community College Board, and Illinois State Board of Education Dual Credit Guidance PDF.

Chicago State University
Chicago State's April virtual open house is April 16, 2020. The first open house is 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. and the second open house is 3:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. You can learn more at https://csuopenhouse2020.com/.

City Colleges of Chicago
This April, the City Colleges of Chicago Board approved academic policy changes in light of the COVID-19 situation to provide some relief to students and help them complete their coursework in a timely fashion. Read the resolution here.

National Louis University - NLU Eagle Dream Scholarship
https://www.nl.edu/financialaid/financialaidresources/scholarships/undocumentedstudents/
The Eagle Dream Scholarship gives undocumented students who plan to enroll at NLU the chance to receive $5,000 per year to help fund their education.

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COVID-19 Resources for ILEA Partners

As all of you are deploying much needed services and support to students, as well as making the shift to remote instruction and operations in response to the coronavirus pandemic, the PCC team has crowdsourced a variety of resources from higher education-oriented sources and media to offer you supports for teaching online, maintaining a focus on equity—particularly for our most vulnerable student populations—and addressing students' basic needs while navigating this new environment. Through this page, find news articles, webinar information, blog posts, and other resources for supporting students.

COVID-19 Resources for ILEA Partners
Access the COVID-19 Resources for ILEA Partners here.  

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PCC Policy Recommendations to Support Illinois’ Students in Response to Covid-19

​For many college students, institutions of higher learning address not just academic needs, but basic non-academic needs as well. College offers a reprieve from housing and food insecurity, access to health care and childcare, income through campus jobs, and a sense of community and purpose.

In the wake of the coronavirus however, that stability has been shaken as colleges and universities across Illinois and the United States have had to close or significantly limit access to classrooms, dining halls, residence halls, health clinics, libraries, and computer labs, shift learning to an online environment for an indefinite period of time, and restrict access to critical services and resources for students.

In response to the needs that have emerged from the COVID-19 crisis, the federal government just passed a sweeping stimulus package that includes relief for college students and institutions of higher education.

While this package will provide assistance to many college students, the needs of Illinois' students and institutions will likely surpass available federal resources. The Partnership offers its recommendations for equitably allocating federal aid and creating state policy that will most effectively and equitably restore the state's higher education sector after this crisis. Read PCC's full policy memo, Legislative Action to Support College Students in Response to COVID-19, here.

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An Important Update from the Partnership in light of Covid-19

PCC announcement
Dear PCC Friends and Supporters,


It is my hope this message finds you well and focusing your energies on the health and well-being of yourselves and your families as the coronavirus outbreak continues to slow public life considerably, and threaten the health of all our communities. In these rapidly-evolving times that are disrupting the lives of college students everywhere and challenging our higher education system in unprecedented ways, we wanted to update you on what actions the Partnership is taking and the resources we are developing in light of this situation.


Since the cancellation of the Spring 2020 ILEA Summit and the first meeting of the PCC/Aspen Equity Academy for Presidents and Cabinets, we've been working closely with our ILEA partners to understand their students' academic and non-academic needs as they've arisen during this crisis and how PCC can support institutions in addressing these. By next week, we will have compiled a list of needs organized by themes to share with the Board and other supporters interested in helping our institutions of higher education help our students. And in the coming days, we'll be sharing a list of resources related to online teaching, open-access resources, supporting students digitally, and other staff and faculty support resources with our partner institutions. Similarly, we are connecting with our Student Advisory Committee members to ascertain their concerns and provide support as needs are identified.

With the legislative session canceled this week and a truncated session expected, movement on our legislative agenda has been put on hold but our fight for necessary resources and supports for underrepresented students has not stopped. During a call we are hosting this week with higher education advocates and college access and success organizations, we will discuss what we're hearing from students, institutions, and crowdsourced resources, in order to brainstorm a coordinated response. Similarly, we are working closely with our partners in the state legislature to ensure any state response considers the unique hardship of our state's most vulnerable students. A memo with our recommendations will be shared in the near future. Further, through social media, we will ask our network to support both S. 3489, the Supporting Students in Response to Coronavirus Act, a federal bill that would allocate $1.2 billion over the next two years to college students in financial need and HB 5262, the appropriations bill Representative Smith introduced seeking a state appropriation to create and expand emergency grant programs in Illinois.

Finally, as the PCC team responds to the disruption created by the pandemic with information and recommendations for our stakeholders, we would be remiss to not be responsive to student needs as they arise now. Our communications team is leveraging our social channels to highlight resources stateside and nationwide – in financial assistance, internet access, educational materials and more – that may be of support to students seeking assistance. Resources are posted on PCC's Twitter account, and the full and regularly updated list can be found here.

As PCC learns more from the organizations and practitioners who are closest to students and receives updates from Springfield, we will continue to share the latest developments and provide an open feedback loop so that you can help us navigate this unprecedented time.

Thank you for your continued support.
Kyle Westbrook
Executive Director
Partnership for College Completion
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Important Update Regarding ILEA Programming

March 16, 2020

Dear ILEA Presidents & Leadership Teams,

We hope you are well and able to focus your energies on the health and well-being of your communities, as public life slows considerably. In this quickly evolving situation with COVID-19, we write to you again with updates about our programming.

At this time we will be holding the publication of institutional Equity Plans until a future date. We want to honor the significant efforts involved in the development of these plans over the last year and thus generate commensurate attention when they are released publicly. We will engage with your teams as a new plan for release develops.

Additionally, we will postpone the Awards & Special Announcements webinar scheduled for March 31 at 10AM until a more appropriate time. We look forward to a celebratory event when the timing is right.

The PCC will be responding to this public health situation with information and recommendations for students, colleges and universities, philanthropy, advocacy partners, and elected officials. We will be working closely with your teams as this work develops.

During these troubling and uncertain times, your partnership is more important to us than ever. Please remain virtually connected and consider us a resource to call upon. You all remain close in our thoughts.

Warm regards,
The Partnership Team
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Important Announcement Regarding ILEA Summit 3/31

Over the past few weeks the PCC has been closely monitoring and responding to the evolving situation with the COVID-19 (coronavirus). Our goal has been to protect the health and safety of all of our partners and to be a responsible participant in this collective global public health challenge.

Unfortunately, that has caused us to announce today that we are cancelling our March 31, 2020 Spring Summit at Northeastern Illinois University in order to work collectively to keep participants safe and prevent and slow the spread of the virus. We plan to work with ILEA teams and presenters to reschedule this event at a future date when it is safe to do so.

We will, however, plan to continue with a one hour webinar on 3/31 at 10AM that will be dedicated to ILEA awards and announcements.

Please feel free to reach out to the PCC Team at any time with any questions or concerns. Thank you and best wishes to all of you as you navigate these challenges on your campuses.
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Illinois Higher Education Leaders Withholding Judgment On Pritzker's Budget Bet

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February 21, 2020

by KATE MCGEE - WBEZ

The budget plan unveiled by Gov. JB Pritzker's this week holds back funding increases for public schools and higher education if a proposed graduated income tax doesn't pass in November, endangering funding for two of his top priorities.

Some public school advocates and state leaders reacted swiftly, expressing disappointment and anger at the prospect of losing out on $150 million in new state funding.

But there has been little outcry among higher education leaders. This comes even though a $55 million increase for public universities and a $15 million increase for community colleges hangs in the balance. If voters don't approve the graduated income tax, that money won't materialize under the governor's budget plan.

"The higher education funding is absolutely necessary for us right now. At the same time I understand the money may not be there," University of Illinois at Chicago Chancellor Michael Amiridis said on Thursday. "They have to balance the budget. So I'm glad it's part of the budget and I hope it will be realized eventually."

Amiridis went as far as to describe Illinois' current higher education landscape as undergoing a "renaissance" at an event with the governor at the UIC campus.

"We have a governor who understands the importance of access to education, especially for low-socioeconomic background students," Amiridis told a crowd of university officials in the middle of the UIC library, as students chatted and hunched over books at tables nearby. "[He] not only talks about it, but also works to support it financially."

Illinois lawmakers increased general funding for the state's public colleges and universities funding by 8.2% last year, the largest percentage jump in nearly three decades. The increase drew applause after years of underinvestment and two years where public universities had to live with drastically reduced state appropriations during the budget impasse.

Pritzker's public support after that tumultuous time could explain why higher education leaders are quick to support him now, despite the proposal that could leave them with no budget increase next year..

Governors State University President Elaine Maimon said she believes the governor wants to do whatever he can to support higher education And the three higher education boards in Illinois touted the governor's proposal in a press release.

"This second year of increased investment signals that we have a champion who understands how important higher education is to students, families, employers, and the state as a whole," Ginger Ostro, executive director of the Illinois Board of Higher Education, said in a statement.

The release did not mention that the funding is contingent on the graduated income tax. Instead, it focused on other funding proposals that are not reliant on passage of the tax, including increased money for need-based tuition grants, known as the Monetary Award Program.

Pritzker wants to make an additional $50 million available for low-income students to use toward tuition, increasing the total amount to over $500 million for the first time in decades.

He also set aside 15% of that money specifically for community college students, which state leaders believe would make community college tuition-free for all eligible students with family income under $45,000.

"The investment in a MAP set-aside for community college students is a commitment to equity, access and attainment for working families in Illinois," Brian Durham, executive director of the Illinois Community College Board, said in the release. "This set-aside will allow community college students to make decisions knowing they will have the support of the state."

Pritzker also proposed adding $27 million to the College Illinois! Program, which lets families save for college for a future student. He said the fund will run out of money in six years if the state doesn't put money toward the program. This program is also contingent on the graduated income tax, according to Pritzker's proposal.

He also wants to fund statewide implementation of the national college application so students could apply to all public-four year universities at the same time using one application. If included in the final budget, Illinois would be the first state to implement this policy. This is seen as another way to encourage students to remain in-state for college. Most Illinois students are already using the Common App, but for out-of-state schools. Pritzker also continued funding the merit-based AIM High grants, another way lawmakers have tried to attract Illinois students to enroll in-state.

State groups focused on higher education, including the Partnership for College Completion in Chicago, also said they understand the governor's decision to make the higher education funding increases contingent on new revenued. But they said it's important to keep advocating for increased investment.

"The governor and the General Assembly have demonstrated a willingness to invest in our students and our institutions that is noteworthy given our state's recent history," Kyle Westbrook, executive director of Partnership for College Completion, said in an email. "But we'll only be in a renaissance period when every eligible low-income student has the funding necessary to enroll in one of our colleges; when those colleges have student populations that are representative of our state's population; and when underrepresented minorities are graduating at the same rates as other students."

Northeastern Illinois University president Gloria Gibson had no comment on the issue. The University of Illinois system did not return multiple requests for comment. 

Kate McGee covers education for WBEZ. Follow her on Twitter at @WBEZeducation and @McGeeReports.

​Original article: https://www.npr.org/local/309/2020/02/21/808094994/illinois-higher-education-leaders-withholding-judgment-on-pritzker-s-budget-bet


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PCC Response to Governor Pritzker's 2020 Budget Address

budgetaddress

February 19, 2020

Today, Governor J.B. Pritzker announced his FY21 budget proposal and for a second year in a row the Governor has taken steps to chart a path towards investing in Illinois' future. This year's budget builds on last year's progress, and with many colleges experiencing enrollment gains, it appears, students and families are regaining trust and confidence in Illinois' public higher education system.

The Governor's budget supports growth in higher education through:

  • Increasing the states investment in the Monetary Award Program (MAP) by $50 million
  • Increasing appropriations to our state's public universities and community colleges by 5%
  • Providing Free community college for students whose families earn less than $45,000
  • Maintaining AIM HIGH grant funding

The Governor's proposed FY21 budget aligns with PCC's goals to improve higher education in three important areas:

PCC celebrates increased investment in MAP and community college student grants.
There is perhaps no more important way to make higher education affordable for low-income students than to better fund Monetary Award Program (MAP) grants, as they are crucial in helping low-income students enroll and persist in college. Today, the Governor committed to a further $50 million increase in MAP, increasing the number of eligible students served and potentially the amount of aid students receive, inching the state closer to a financial aid program that serves all students in need. The Partnership reaffirms our commitment to advocating for a full $100 million investment in MAP.

The Partnership applauds the Governor's commitment to Illinois' low-income community college students.
The Governor also introduced a program that would guarantee that low-income students under a $45,000 income threshold would not have to pay tuition and fees at community college. Considering that community college students are far more likely to not receive MAP despite being eligible and applying, this new policy could help many students enroll in college.

Just like the Governor, PCC also recognizes the need for new sources of funding that can support higher education.
With revenue from the cannabis industry, gaming, taxes, and the prospect of additional funds in the coming years if the state adopts a Fair Tax, the Partnership urges the state legislature to consider this $50 million increase a down payment toward a fully funded program – one that serves all eligible low-income students at full tuition and fees. Then – and only then – will we lessen the financial barrier to higher education still faced by thousands of Illinois' low-income students.

There is much to celebrate in this budget, and PCC applauds the Governor's commitment to the state's college students. However, the Partnership also provides the following recommendations as part of a comprehensive approach to improving equity in higher education.

  1. The state should invest in financial aid programs that help students persist. Emergency completion grant programs support students at risk of stopping out due to unmet financial need, resulting from the loss of a job or medical expenses. These programs keep students on track to degree completion, raise graduation rates, and narrow institutional completion gaps.
  2. MAP grants should be phased out at for-profit institutions. While for-profit colleges serve less than 8% of the state's college students, they account for nearly twice the amount of student loan defaults than all of Illinois' public and private institutions combined. By eliminating MAP at for-profits, Illinois would be helping thousands more students access a more affordable higher education.
  3. Move toward instituting an equitable funding formula for higher education.
  4. Currently, Illinois does not have a funding formula for allocating resources to four-year public institutions, and as a result, appropriations are based on historic funding levels. An independent task force should be established to study the current allocation method and recommend an allocation model that distributes state resources equitably and predictably, and that ensures institutions serving our most vulnerable students are well-supported.
  5. 4. The state should support student parents in higher education by providing more information on existing resources. In his proposed budget, Governor Pritzker included an expansion of the child care assistance program to offer reduced co-pays to parents. This increase would be most effective if coupled with increasing information to student parents on child care resources such as the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) and federal dependent care allowance. A change as simple as notifying student parents about their eligibility for resources in their financial aid letters would bridge that information gap.


For more information, contact PCC Senior Policy Manager Emily Goldman at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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ILEA Member Spotlight: Meet Corey Williams, Governors State University

1. What is your current role/title?

I currently serve as Associate Vice President for Student Affairs, Dean of Students and Interim Chief Diversity Officer.

2. Where did you earn your degrees and what did you study?

BA, Sociology, Stony Brook University,

MA, Higher Ed Admin, Chicago State University,

Ed.D. Education Leadership, DePaul University (June 2020 anticipated)

My dissertation research question is: Is there a relationship between cultural-based mentoring and academic persistence in African-American and Latinx male community college students?

3. How did your college/university support your success in earning your degrees?

As an undergrad, there was a clear disconnect between educational outcomes and equity. While I'm sure that there were programs and services geared towards student success at Stony Brook University in the early 90's, as a first-generation, low-income student, those programs weren't very well advertised. Also, as someone who immigrated from a foreign country, it was difficult for me to navigate the complexities of higher education as English was not my native language.

4. What excites you about equity work at your institution?

Being a catalyst for change that will ultimately impact every aspect of Governors State University.

5. In your role, how do you impact equitable outcomes for your students?

In my many roles, I clearly understand that diversity does not mean that all of my students are equal and as such, I need to be more intentional in creating spaces to ensure that students truly feel supported. Additionally, coming together as a community (faculty, students, staff and external stakeholders) to discuss how to invest in structures that will best support our students.


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PCC’s Response to Governor Pritzker’s 2020 State of the State Address

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Today, the Governor delivered his first State of the State Address, and PCC was pleased to see that renewed investments in higher education were highlighted.

Increase in MAP Grants

Governor Pritzker acknowledged expanding student grants, which include the Monetary Award Program (MAP), saying that the state is "expanding scholarships to an additional 10,000 college-bound students."

The governor's $50 million increase in MAP last year was a crucial addition that allowed thousands more students to enroll and persist in college. Still, additional investments are needed; this year, tens of thousands of students will be denied aid despite being eligible and applying, and awarded grants will cover only a fraction of what they used to in terms of college costs. We agree that MAP increases have been an essential boost to Illinois, but recognize this is only the beginning in making college more affordable for our low-income students.

Revenue

"It's time for us to recommit ourselves to the hard work of bringing prosperity and opportunity to all communities in Illinois through a fairer tax system…"


Governor Pritzker identified the need for the Fair Tax Amendment to pass, and the Partnership agrees; new revenues from this source are necessary to develop a budget that adequately invests in our students, and this would raise funds equitably.

Enrollment

In his address, the Governor mentioned the increase in college enrollment in the state: "after years of decline, we are turning around university student enrollment by making college more affordable…"

We agree that this is an important achievement, and that college affordability is paramount for Illinois students. However, thousands of young adults throughout the state still lack access to and/or cannot afford college, particularly at our states four-year institutions. With a continued focus on equity, as well as investing in students and institutions, the state can further increase enrollment at the public colleges and universities serving our state's most financially vulnerable students.

Appropriations

"We passed a bipartisan, truly balanced budget on time, with renewed investments in job creation, cradle to career education, and physical and mental healthcare... Jobs and businesses are coming to this state because we are investing in the things that have always made us great: a skilled workforce, modern infrastructure, great public schools, top research universities…"

After 17 years of harmful disinvestment in Illinois institutions, the incremental additions to higher education appropriations should not be downplayed, as colleges have already seen enrollment gains. However, investing in a higher educational system capable of ensuring that all students have access to the careers of the future will take further commitment from the Governor's Office and legislature over the coming years.

Overall Focus on Education

The Partnership is heartened by the Governor's focus on education in his address, and we agree that improving the B-20 educational system has to be a priority, such that Illinoisans have opportunities to succeed that aren't limited by location, race, or income. This year, we urge Governor Pritzker to commit to policies that will make lasting impacts on equity, such as increasing MAP by $100 million, eliminating state financial aid at for-profit colleges and redirecting those funds to thousands of students not receiving MAP awards, investing in emergency grants to help students complete, and supporting student parents pursuing their college degree by providing information on critical services. We look forward to working with Governor Pritzker and the legislature, and to making progress toward providing more equitable pathways for all students to succeed.

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ILEA Member Spotlight: Meet Asif Wilson, Harold Washington College

1. What is your current role/title?

I currently serve as Associate Dean of Instruction at Harold Washington College. While I support the general instructional operations of our college, I directly support tutoring, dual credit and dual enrollment, first year experience courses, developmental education, and community outreach. I started my career as a middle school social studies and science teacher and moved into pre-service teacher education after five years in the classroom. While the Associate Dean appointment was not necessarily in my career trajectory, I am grateful to be in a position where I can introduce and support racial equity initiatives that, we hope, lead to less harmful conditions for our students.

2. Where did you earn your degree(s)? Types of degree(s) and field(s) of study?

I hold a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Illinois at Chicago. My research looks at the intersections of race, place, and pedagogy. I am very interested in exploring how race, class, and gender impact schooling, education, curriculum, and instruction. I also hold a M.Ed. in Educational Studies and B.A. in Elementary Education.

3. How did your college/university support your success in earning your degree(s)?

When I was hired as the Dean of Instruction, my colleagues at Harold Washington were instrumental in supporting me through my journey to complete my doctorate. They offered me the support and encouragement I needed to maintain my work responsibilities and write my dissertation. I was also fortunate enough to be supported financially by my institution through their tuition reimbursement program.

4. What excites you about equity work at your institution?

Before he died, Tupac (2009) wrote a poem titled "Roses in the Concrete." The rapper (2009) ends the poem with "long live the rose that grew through the crack in the concrete when no one else even cared" (p. 3). For me, Tupac highlighted two equity-based claims:

On the one hand, that the roses are roses—our students come into our schools with many assets. Tara Yosso (2005) argues that all students bring in a variety of assets, what she calls "community and cultural wealth", into schools that often go under-utilized. In my opinion, part of our work in moving towards more equitable outcomes for students is recognizing, utilizing, and sustaining interactions with students that are rooted in their strengths. From this positionality we view the roses as just that…roses.

Additionally, this positionality may support a shift in our equity analyses away from individualized ones that blame students for their academic failure towards the institutional structures and processes that create the conditions that our students participate in—the concrete. For me, it is imperative that we center our attention on fracturing the concrete conditions in our schools that create barriers and harmful conditions for our students, especially those that have been historically marginalized by our schools.

I am happy to hear that so many institutions are working to better define equity on their campuses and developing initiatives that meet said visions. I am, however, cautious, to congratulate these initiatives as they often-times paint a deficit picture of our students while avoiding interrogation of the structures and processes of our schools that may be creating inequities. I encourage schools attempting to engage their campus communities in creating more equitable outcomes for their students to continue to develop support systems for students but to be more reflective, turning the mirror towards the concrete conditions that our students may not find the cracks in.

5. In your role, how do you impact equitable outcomes for your students?

While I think I've impacted a number of equitable outcomes for our students, I'll highlight two initiatives here.

Discover

The first is our Discover course. As chair of the Department of Interdisciplinary Studies, where our "college success courses" live, I have led the over-haul of our course offerings. After spending time with our students, I realized that unfortunately, community colleges remain a "second option" for many of them. For a variety of reasons, (counselors, cost of attendance, societal stigma, school evaluations, family, etc.), many students feel as if their attendance at Harold Washington College is secondary, less than, to attending a four-year university. On top of that, our placement test places most of our students into remedial courses. These two experiences/structures may have a negative impact on how our students see themselves and their sense of belonging. I, in collaboration with our wellness center and faculty, set out to create a course for our developmental education students that could cultivate their hope, what Paolo Freire (1970) defines as agency—seeing ourselves as capable—and navigation—navigating complexities when they arise. Discover is a one-credit hour, trauma-informed, healing-centered course that all of our developmental English students currently take.

Data reported by students before Discover (start of semester survey) indicated that Discover students are dealing with a great deal of stress while attending college. This data also suggested that they struggled to navigate the complexities of life and school. Data reported by students at the conclusion of Discover (end of semester survey) indicates that a) the classroom environment was constructed and maintained to support students hope (Freire, 1970); b) Discover supported students' self-recognition of their confidence (agency); c) Discover helped students connect to themselves, their classmates, and the college (personnel and resources); d) Discover helped students better navigate complexities (stress) in and out of school; and e) students hoped for elements of Discover to be included in other classes/areas of the college.

Research shows that when students feel more confident in themselves, feel like they belong, and have a support system in and out of school, they perform better. Discover is creating that sense of confidence, belonging, and collaboration needed to support our students' success while also creating the space for them to name their pain, connect their pain to others to see that they are not alone, and develop tools in their toolbox to move beyond, and start healing, from their pain. It is our hope that Discover no longer exists one day. It is our hope that asset-based, healing-centered praxis of Discover is embedded into every area, (every inch of the concrete) and process of our college.

Collective Care for the Care-Givers

While institutions may be getting better at supporting the holistic needs of our students, in my opinion, we still have not considered the conditions that better support the care givers—those of us charged with supporting our students' success. If our students have pain, we do, too!

Roughly two years ago, I invited faculty, staff, and administrators working with developmental education students to start attending bi-weekly meetings to better understand what asset-based pedagogies were and how they might support our interactions with our students. We called this committee T.E.A.M. (Transitional Education through Affective Methodologies). Approximately 19 people attended each of our meetings. After spending nearly a year together our work took a turn. It was the end of the spring semester and, as we always did, we opened up our meeting with check-ins—a ritual where every individual in the space could share their personal reflections related to how they were feeling physically, intellectually, emotionally, and share any needs they hoped the group could provide. During this particular check-in, almost every T.E.A.M. member shared a story of exhaustion, pain, and burn-out. We knew that we had to turn our gaze away from the students and towards ourselves. We knew that we could not survive under the existing conditions that were burning us all out.

For one year, about twelve of the original 19 members dedicated two-hours every other week, to T.E.A.M. During our time together we focused on three areas related to collective care: breaking bread, engaging in healing practices, and political education. These acts of collective care represent "an extended family, where members are intimately connected and routinely perform acts of compassion on behalf of one another" (Dockray, 2017, para 12).

While these healing-centered collective care efforts were used for our own well-being, they seemed to impact how we interacted with students, supporting this paper's claim that if we care for each other more we will, as a result, have a stronger capacity to care better for our students. At the conclusion of T.E.A.M., one member wrote "Students come to us (as we may come to work) with many life experiences, both positive and negative, that shape their learning and development. T.E.A.M. allowed us to learn about how to support students and provide them a space to name and frame their experiences" (end of semester reflection, May 2019). Here, we see the symbiotic nature of T.E.A.M—both as a space for us to focus on ourselves, but while doing so we were also focusing on our students.
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Rising tuition makes college access harder for low-income students

daily-herald

January 3, 2020

by MADHU KRISHNAMURTHY - Daily Herald

Rising tuition and state underfunding of public colleges and universities has put access and affordability out of reach for low-income students, experts say.

The impact is being felt most acutely by black students whose enrollment in four-year colleges has steadily declined, according to a report by the nonprofit Partnership for College Completion.

The group works with colleges and universities to improve completion rates for low-income, minority and first-generation students. It found 11,100 fewer black students attended Illinois' public and private, nonprofit institutions in 2017 compared to 2007.

"We have seen a mass exodus of black students from higher education in Illinois over the last several years," said Kyle Westbrook, executive director of the Partnership for College Completion.

On the flip side, Latino students disproportionately are enrolling in community colleges and are about 30% less likely to transfer to four-year institutions than white students, another Partnership report shows.

The declining funding of colleges and universities has led to students leaving Illinois for nearby states, Westbrook said.

For a student whose family makes less than $30,000 a year, the cost of attending a public four-year college is about $12,800 per year -- 50% more than the Midwestern average. That same student would pay yearly about $17,500 to attend a private four-year college, about $22,000 at a for-profit institution, and around $6,200 to attend a community college in Illinois, the report shows.

Meanwhile, overall state appropriation for Illinois public universities has declined by more than 50% from 2002 to 2018. State funding of the Monetary Award Program grant for low-income students has remained static during that period, the report shows.

"Universities have passed those costs onto students," Westbrook said. "Students who can least afford it are the (ones) being priced out."

State funding has not kept pace with rising tuition costs or the increase in the number of MAP-eligible students. About 46% of eligible students receive MAP grants. Students are awarded a maximum of $4,900.

"The award covers only about 34% of tuition and fees at our public universities. And not every student who is eligible actually receives one," Westbrook said.

The group recommends increasing state funding for public institutions serving large populations of low-income students as well as the MAP grant -- awarded based on financial need. It also urges creating a task force for an equity-driven funding formula for higher education.

Source: https://www.dailyherald.com/news/20200103/rising-tuition-makes-college-access-harder-for-low-income-students 


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How community colleges are supporting low-income black, Latino students

How community colleges are supporting low-income black, Latino students

January 3, 2020

by MADHU KRISHNAMURTHY - Daily Herald

Growing up in the Northwest suburbs, Daliyah Sanders often felt isolated from her peers as the only black student in her class practically since kindergarten through high school.

"It's been my reality my entire life," said Sanders, 19, of Schaumburg.

It's why connecting with peers and professors in college was an important motivator for Sanders to stay in school. That and getting a tuition-free full ride at Harper College in Palatine through the One Million Degrees program, which helps hundreds of community college students succeed in the classroom and beyond.

Sanders transferred to Harper from a four-year college in Chicago that didn't offer her the personalized attention she needed. Harper, she realized, was the better option because of the supports it offers minority students, such as tuition assistance, mentoring and networking.

"I chose this program because ... my friend talked about how good of an experience it was. ... I liked the overall help it was giving to students," said Sanders, who learned about the program as a student at Hoffman Estates High School.

Low-income minority students, like Sanders, increasingly are ditching four-year institutions due to rising tuition costs and lack of supports.

Community colleges are positioned uniquely to help these students through career path programs tailored to what local employers need, said Kyle Westbrook, executive director of the Partnership for College Completion.

"They are deeply embedded. They are closer to the communities, to the high schools," Westbrook said. "They have been building dual-credit, dual-enrollment options for high schools that can be major access avenues for low-income student populations."

Nearly a third of students at suburban community colleges come from low-income families and receive assistance through federal Pell grants and state Monetary Award Program grants. Many colleges have adopted programs and policies that help black, Latino and low-income students complete degree programs and transfer to four-year universities.

Elgin Community College offers robust mentoring services, including peer mentoring, for its black and Latino students, who comprise roughly 4% and 48%, respectively, of the college's student population.

"We also have a mandatory advising program ... requiring certain groups of students that we've identified as having some needs to meet with their advisers before they enroll for the semester," said David Rudden, ECC managing director of institutional research.

Other interventions include expanding outreach to Latino students through the Organization of Latin American Students club. The college's Spartan Food Pantry and financial literacy program also are geared toward serving the low-income student population.

College of Lake County in Grayslake is partnering with area high schools that have higher populations of low-income black and Latino students -- North Chicago, Round Lake, Waukegan and Zion-Benton -- to provide career counseling and support.

One such experiment places a CLC college transitions coach at Mundelein High School to build relationships with students and families, and help them through the financial aid and application processes.

"Rarely it's the academic aspect that is the deterrent for student success," CLC President Lori Suddick said. Rather, it's about "affordability, not knowing how to navigate the system, and understanding how to successfully advocate for oneself within an environment that (isn't) always designed in ways to benefit people."

CLC is supporting students' basic needs through an on-campus food pantry where they can grab a snack and get free groceries, hygiene products and clothing. It also provides emergency funds, such as if a student has a flat tire or a household problem.

Students without home internet access or a personal computer can check out Chromebooks or use CLC's library hot spots. Officials also are adopting open education resources to eliminate textbook costs and creating dual-credit programs for high schoolers. The college's three campuses -- Grayslake, Vernon Hills and Waukegan -- house career path programs tailored to the needs of the communities they serve.

The college recently changed its policy of dropping students for not paying the previous semester's fees. Once dropped, students often don't re-enroll. Students now can remain enrolled while paying overdue fees through a payment plan.

Harper partners with Barrington Area Unit District 220, Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 and Northwest Suburban High School District 214 for its Summer Scholars program. It enrolls students coming from high school lacking skills, first-generation and underrepresented students, and those with disabilities or whose English and math skills are not up to college level.

"They get to come on campus ahead of the rest of the fall class, get an opportunity to meet students, and form friendships and bonds," said Sheryl Otto, Harper associate provost for student affairs.

Based on first-semester performance, students are eligible for a monetary award toward second-semester tuition and fees.

"It is to try and help keep them motivated and keep that momentum encouraging them to enroll," Otto said. "It's much harder once we lose those students to get them back into the institution."

Harper's partnership with One Million Degrees provides more comprehensive services targeting similar populations, helping them earn associate degrees and transfer to baccalaureate programs.

Students get support through tutoring assistance, workshops, academic advisers and personal/professional mentors. Between financial aid and scholarships through the Harper College Educational Foundation, students in the program pay no tuition costs.

Currently, 160 students are enrolled in the program -- about 10% are black, while black students comprise 4% of Harper's total student population. Of last year's batch, 85% of students successfully completed the course.

College of DuPage has hosted a black student leadership conference for the last five years to engage high school students and help them understand what it means to be college-ready. COD is working on transfer partnerships with historically black colleges and universities for its roughly 7% black student population and will host a hip-hop summit this spring.

"We are trying to do things to make it an environment for African American students so they feel like they belong here," said Mark Curtis-Chavez, COD provost of academic and student affairs.

This year, COD hosted it's first Latino Leaders Luncheon with community leaders from throughout DuPage County. The college has a growing Latino student population -- nearly 27% -- and officials are starting to recruit students directly at the high schools.

"Our goal is to increase the success rates of African American and Latino students by 4% by the end of next year," Curtis-Chavez said. "Success means three things for us: persistence, graduation and transfer."

Source: https://www.dailyherald.com/news/20200103/how-community-colleges-are-supporting-low-income-black-latino-students 


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ILEA Equity Webinar Series 2019-2020 Calendar

Please check back periodically for updates and additions to this schedule.

​Date & Time ​Presenter(s) Description
​February 11, 2020
12:00pm – 1:00pm

Please join us at this website:
https://global.gotomeeting.com/join/451560093

​Jordan Herrera

Director of Social Services and the
Advocacy Resource Center – Amarillo
College

​Eradicating Student Poverty Barriers Hindering Academic
Success at Amarillo College

This webinar will present Amarillo College's systematic
approach to addressing poverty barriers. AC's No Excuses Poverty Initiative is the connector between campus programs, services and projects designed to support students, boost graduation and transfer, and increase student persistence. AC's Advocacy and Resource Center is the hub of our initiative. Growing from serving less than 1.5% of our student enrollment in 2012, the ARC assists 21% of our student enrollment in 2018. During academic year 2017/2018, the ARC assisted nearly 2,000 students in over 5,000 student visits. Even with this remarkable growth, AC continues to revolutionize our initiative by using data analytics and technology to drive social services connections before students even begin classes.
​March 11, 2020
12:00pm – 1:30pm

Please join us at this website:
https://join.startmeeting.com/partnershipfcc

​Bridgette Johnson

Director, Black/African American
Cultural Center – Colorado State
University

​Leading Equity-Minded Success for Black students at Colorado State University

This webinar will present the Black/African American Cultural and Center's approach to holistically serving Black students using its 4-prong approach: cultural programming, academic enhancement, mentoring, and leadership development. During this webinar, Bridgette Johnson (Director) will highlight specific programs that have positively impacted retention for Black students at CSU. Additionally, the webinar will describe the amazing opportunities and contextual challenges that come with leading a Cultural Center for Black students. Cultural Centers were created to serve specific student groups, thus, equity in student success is their mission. This webinar will present one center's approach to holistically serving Black students using culturally responsive programming and university partnerships.
​April 22, 2020
12:00pm – 1:00pm

Please join us at this website:
https://nl.zoom.us/j/9145845176

​Lydia Mantis

Undergraduate Instructional Support
Leader – National Louis University
Phuong Thai-Garcia, Undergraduate
Instructional Support Leader –
National Louis University

​Supporting Student Learning through Faculty Coaching at
National Louis University


This webinar will present National Louis University's Undergraduate College (UGC) faculty coaching model. Participants will learn about the history of UGC, its commitment to college access and career pathways, the classroom visit and debrief model, and how insights gained from this process drive faculty professional development. Learn how this mode develops responsive instructors who engage a wide range of learners.
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State of ILEA Recap

At this year's fall summit, the Partnership's Managing Director Lisa Castillo Richmond delivered our inaugural State of ILEA address, The State of ILEA: From Planning to Implementation, providing a status update on the initiative, highlighting the work being done by ILEA member institutions, and reviewing upcoming plans for the cohort. Highlights from her address included:

  • The Case for Our Approach

Illinois has the 4th largest graduation gap between Black and White students at four-year colleges & universities. (Source: National Center for Education Statistics, IPEDS, Graduation Rates 2015)

Illinois ranks 39th out of 44 states in the Latino-White attainment gap for adults and 35th out of 41 states in the Black-White attainment gap for adults. (Source: The Education Trust, The State of Higher Education Equity, 2018)

  • Welcome to New Schools

o Elgin Community College, Chicago State University, Loyola University, Kishwaukee College, and College of DuPage are now ILEA partners.

o The ILEA cohort now consists of 28 public and private nonprofit colleges and universities. The breakdown is as follows: 4 public universities, 8 private colleges and universities, and 16 community colleges.

o The ILEA cohort represents nearly 217,000 undergraduates (38% of total enrollment in the state) including 44% of total Black student enrollment and 67% of total Latinx student enrollment.

  • Equity Plan Update – Twenty-one equity plans have been submitted and several are forthcoming

Full drafts of members' equity plans are due December 18, 2019, but that date is flexible based on each institution's process. All finalized, publishable equity plans will be due to the PCC on Wednesday, March 18, and will be posted on PCC's website on March 25, 2020. PCC will notify local media to announce the publication of your equity plans. We encourage you to post them on your institution's website as well. As a reminder, these plans are living documents and should be updated annually as ILEA colleges and universities learn from and move forward their efforts. PCC will share a process and template for annual review and reflection of institutional Equity Plans.

  • 10 common strategies have arisen across equity plans: First-year mentoring programs; New financial supports for students; Addressing basic needs and non-academic supports; Creating or better supporting student organizations related to student identity/belonging/culture; Reforming first-year courses & sequences; TRIO programs and targeted wraparound supports; Academic advising reforms; Reforming developmental education courses/placement; Creating population specific success committees and councils; and Providing faculty professional development. We look forward to a great session at the 2020 Spring Summit where these plans will be discussed as a community.

  • 2019 to 2020: Planning to Implementation

Strategic importance of data and the centrality of IR in the campus equity conversation

o Build capacity for diagnosis (meaningful disaggregation) and capacity building on data (critical analyses)

o Be open to seeing new things in the data including looking at the impact of early momentum indicators such as credit accumulation, gateway course completion and persistence momentum (term to term, year to year)

  • What's Next

o ILEA Equity Academies for Presidents and Cabinets and Faculty launching in 2020

o Deep dive meetings on specific topics related to strategies in equity plans being explored

o Use of NSC dashboards in 2020


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Meet Asif Wilson, Harold Washington College

1. What is your current role/title?

I currently serve as Associate Dean of Instruction at Harold Washington College. While I support the general instructional operations of our college, I directly support tutoring, dual credit and dual enrollment, first year experience courses, developmental education, and community outreach. I started my career as a middle school social studies and science teacher and moved into pre-service teacher education after five years in the classroom. While the Associate Dean appointment was not necessarily in my career trajectory, I am grateful to be in a position where I can introduce and support racial equity initiatives that, we hope, lead to less harmful conditions for our students.

2. Where did you earn your degree(s)? Types of degree(s) and field(s) of study?

I hold a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Illinois at Chicago. My research looks at the intersections of race, place, and pedagogy. I am very interested in exploring how race, class, and gender impact schooling, education, curriculum, and instruction. I also hold a M.Ed. in Educational Studies and B.A. in Elementary Education.

3. How did your college/university support your success in earning your degree(s)?

When I was hired as the Dean of Instruction, my colleagues at Harold Washington were instrumental in supporting me through my journey to complete my doctorate. They offered me the support and encouragement I needed to maintain my work responsibilities and write my dissertation. I was also fortunate enough to be supported financially by my institution through their tuition reimbursement program.

4. What excites you about equity work at your institution?

Before he died, Tupac (2009) wrote a poem titled "Roses in the Concrete." The rapper (2009) ends the poem with "long live the rose that grew through the crack in the concrete when no one else even cared" (p. 3). For me, Tupac highlighted two equity-based claims:

On the one hand, that the roses are roses—our students come into our schools with many assets. Tara Yosso (2005) argues that all students bring in a variety of assets, what she calls "community and cultural wealth", into schools that often go under-utilized. In my opinion, part of our work in moving towards more equitable outcomes for students is recognizing, utilizing, and sustaining interactions with students that are rooted in their strengths. From this positionality we view the roses as just that…roses.

Additionally, this positionality may support a shift in our equity analyses away from individualized ones that blame students for their academic failure towards the institutional structures and processes that create the conditions that our students participate in—the concrete. For me, it is imperative that we center our attention on fracturing the concrete conditions in our schools that create barriers and harmful conditions for our students, especially those that have been historically marginalized by our schools.

I am happy to hear that so many institutions are working to better define equity on their campuses and developing initiatives that meet said visions. I am, however, cautious, to congratulate these initiatives as they often-times paint a deficit picture of our students while avoiding interrogation of the structures and processes of our schools that may be creating inequities. I encourage schools attempting to engage their campus communities in creating more equitable outcomes for their students to continue to develop support systems for students but to be more reflective, turning the mirror towards the concrete conditions that our students may not find the cracks in.

5. In your role, how do you impact equitable outcomes for your students?

While I think I've impacted a number of equitable outcomes for our students, I'll highlight two initiatives here.

Discover

The first is our Discover course. As chair of the Department of Interdisciplinary Studies, where our "college success courses" live, I have led the over-haul of our course offerings. After spending time with our students, I realized that unfortunately, community colleges remain a "second option" for many of them. For a variety of reasons, (counselors, cost of attendance, societal stigma, school evaluations, family, etc.), many students feel as if their attendance at Harold Washington College is secondary, less than, to attending a four-year university. On top of that, our placement test places most of our students into remedial courses. These two experiences/structures may have a negative impact on how our students see themselves and their sense of belonging. I, in collaboration with our wellness center and faculty, set out to create a course for our developmental education students that could cultivate their hope, what Paolo Freire (1970) defines as agency—seeing ourselves as capable—and navigation—navigating complexities when they arise. Discover is a one-credit hour, trauma-informed, healing-centered course that all of our developmental English students currently take.

Data reported by students before Discover (start of semester survey) indicated that Discover students are dealing with a great deal of stress while attending college. This data also suggested that they struggled to navigate the complexities of life and school. Data reported by students at the conclusion of Discover (end of semester survey) indicates that a) the classroom environment was constructed and maintained to support students hope (Freire, 1970); b) Discover supported students' self-recognition of their confidence (agency); c) Discover helped students connect to themselves, their classmates, and the college (personnel and resources); d) Discover helped students better navigate complexities (stress) in and out of school; and e) students hoped for elements of Discover to be included in other classes/areas of the college.

Research shows that when students feel more confident in themselves, feel like they belong, and have a support system in and out of school, they perform better. Discover is creating that sense of confidence, belonging, and collaboration needed to support our students' success while also creating the space for them to name their pain, connect their pain to others to see that they are not alone, and develop tools in their toolbox to move beyond, and start healing, from their pain. It is our hope that Discover no longer exists one day. It is our hope that asset-based, healing-centered praxis of Discover is embedded into every area, (every inch of the concrete) and process of our college.

Collective Care for the Care-Givers

While institutions may be getting better at supporting the holistic needs of our students, in my opinion, we still have not considered the conditions that better support the care givers—those of us charged with supporting our students' success. If our students have pain, we do, too!

Roughly two years ago, I invited faculty, staff, and administrators working with developmental education students to start attending bi-weekly meetings to better understand what asset-based pedagogies were and how they might support our interactions with our students. We called this committee T.E.A.M. (Transitional Education through Affective Methodologies). Approximately 19 people attended each of our meetings. After spending nearly a year together our work took a turn. It was the end of the spring semester and, as we always did, we opened up our meeting with check-ins—a ritual where every individual in the space could share their personal reflections related to how they were feeling physically, intellectually, emotionally, and share any needs they hoped the group could provide. During this particular check-in, almost every T.E.A.M. member shared a story of exhaustion, pain, and burn-out. We knew that we had to turn our gaze away from the students and towards ourselves. We knew that we could not survive under the existing conditions that were burning us all out.

For one year, about twelve of the original 19 members dedicated two-hours every other week, to T.E.A.M. During our time together we focused on three areas related to collective care: breaking bread, engaging in healing practices, and political education. These acts of collective care represent "an extended family, where members are intimately connected and routinely perform acts of compassion on behalf of one another" (Dockray, 2017, para 12).

While these healing-centered collective care efforts were used for our own well-being, they seemed to impact how we interacted with students, supporting this paper's claim that if we care for each other more we will, as a result, have a stronger capacity to care better for our students. At the conclusion of T.E.A.M., one member wrote "Students come to us (as we may come to work) with many life experiences, both positive and negative, that shape their learning and development. T.E.A.M. allowed us to learn about how to support students and provide them a space to name and frame their experiences" (end of semester reflection, May 2019). Here, we see the symbiotic nature of T.E.A.M—both as a space for us to focus on ourselves, but while doing so we were also focusing on our students.
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