PCC Quarterly—Letter from the Executive Director—October 2021

Dear Partners,

I am so pleased to be writing to you in my new capacity as the second Executive Director of PCC, succeeding our founding Executive Director Dr. Kyle Westbrook last month. I am honored to have the opportunity to lead PCC's talented team in this next chapter, while continuing to expand our work with you – our partners – as you make progress on our shared aspirations for greater racial and socioeconomic equity across Illinois' higher education system.

As we begin a new academic year and celebrate Hispanic Heritage this month, I want to draw attention to why our equity efforts must result in tangible action for our Latinx students. Hispanic Heritage has been recognized and celebrated in the U.S. in some form since the late 1960s, with the September 15 kick-off chosen for its connection to the timing of independence of several Latin American countries. Most of our partner colleges and universities have hosted or will host virtual and in-person events to recognize the celebration, as nearly all of our partner colleges and universities in the Illinois Equity in Attainment (ILEA) Initiative are Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs - 17) or emerging HSIs (5). Among all Latinx undergraduates in Illinois, 42% attend ILEA colleges and universities. Collectively, just over one-quarter of all of students in ILEA institutions are Latinx – representing more than 40,000 potential future graduates of your institutions[1] and with many more following in their footsteps each year. That represents an incredible opportunity and responsibility for our partners' equity efforts to result in tens of thousands of additional degrees for Illinois' Latinx students.

The work on this front matters a great deal. Latinx adults are underrepresented among associate and bachelor's degree earners in every state.[2]According to the Education Trust, only 20.4% of Latinx adults in Illinois have a college degree – a 30 point disparity with White adults. In Illinois, Latinx students represent 24.9% of associate degree seekers, earning a grade of A- from the Education Trust in terms of proportionality to the state's population, and 18.8% of bachelor's degree seekers, earning a grade of C-. In terms of degree completion, as we know, we fare worse. Regarding how well the percentage of degrees awarded to Latinx undergraduates reflects the racial and ethnic composition of the population in Illinois, we receive a D for associate degrees conferred and an F for bachelor's degrees.[3]

We know that representation matters and therefore strategies are needed to achieve greater diversity among faculty, staff, and administration. The work here too is extremely urgent, as in 2018 Latinx women and men made up only 6% of all full-time faculty in the U.S.[4]

When we look to solutions to address the urgency of reversing these inequities, we at PCC believe our two most powerful levers are policy change (state and federal) and institutional-level actions on policy and practice led by leaders at all levels within colleges and universities, all of which must be supported by data and research. Our many partners in ILEA colleges and universities in the state legislature, state agencies, and in other nonprofit and advocacy organizations are showing what is possible when higher education takes responsibility for its student outcomes.

In our next chapter as an organization, as this work continues and expands, we look forward to documenting and elevating the stories of how our state's institutions and systems changed course and truly became a system for all Illinoisans. I hope you will continue to support PCC in its efforts to advance equity in Illinois higher education: ensuring that Illinois' Latinx students and other student groups that have historically been underserved and minoritized have access to the resources and supports they need to access and complete college and pursue their career aspirations.

In partnership for equity,


Email me to share your thoughts at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or connect with me on Twitter at @Lili_Castille. I'd love to discuss Latinx authors we're reading this month -- you can find excellent book recommendations here, here, and here.


[1] Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE) Enrollment & Degree System http://www.ibhe.org/EnrollmentsDegrees/

[2] Broken Mirrors: Latino Student Representation at State Public Colleges and Universities (Education Trust) https://edtrustmain.s3.us-east-2.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/10123122/Broken-Mirrors-Latino-Student-Representation-at-State-Public-Colleges-and-Universities-September-2019.pdf

[3] State Equity Report Card – Illinois http://stateequity.org/state/illinois

[4] National Center for Education Statistics https://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/indicator/csc

Applied Equity in Higher Education - September 202...

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