Lisa joined the team to launch the PCC in late 2016. Prior to returning to Illinois, Lisa served as the Executive Director of Graduate NYC at the City University of New York. Previously, she spent several years leading national and local programming for nonprofit education organizations, predominantly those focused on college access and...
Lisa joined the team to launch the PCC in late 2016. Prior to returning to Illinois, Lisa served as the Executive Director of Graduate NYC at the City University of New York. Previously, she spent several years leading national and local programming for nonprofit education organizations, predominantly those focused on college access and success. As a first generation college student, she is deeply committed to addressing inequities in higher education, and is currently a doctoral student at Loyola University Chicago.

Data for Equity Action

Dear ILEA Partners,

It has been wonderful to see your faces onscreen at our virtual events this fall. Thank you for continuing to prioritize the equity work on your campuses in ways that will strengthen your institutions economically and academically, as places of excellence in which to study, work, and grow.

The year 2020 has been a year of considerable challenge, but we have also discovered many pleasant surprises in our work together. As you have demonstrated, we found that it is possible to continue to build community with all of you, engage in important dialogues, and deliver effective online programming on various equity topics that can increase capacity for this work on your teams. As always, the resources produced by our team have been created in direct response to feedback and requests we receive from you. We thank you for taking the time to share your feedback and reach out to us with individual requests. We continue to value this engagement with you to better target our programming and to ensure its ongoing relevance to your most pressing needs.

As our ILEA institutional research colleagues finalize the submission of baseline data to the NSC PDP and your teams gain access to your dashboards, the PCC team is busy creating opportunities to support you in building data capacity in the coming year. We recognize that on this measure, as with many others, ILEA teams are in different places on the journey to democratizing disaggregated data throughout the institutional decision-making process.

As you consider institutional data, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you regularly share disaggregated data across your institution with various stakeholders (faculty, staff, students)?

  • Does your leadership team or department regularly use disaggregated data to make decisions?

  • Does your team or department regularly use disaggregated data to evaluate the impact of decisions/equity strategies?

  • Do you closely examine  data for ILEA equity populations (Black students, Latinx students, and students who are Pell recipients)?

If the answer is 'no' to any of these questions – what is your plan to get to that point? Additionally, do you regularly collect qualitative data to supplement and provide context to quantitative data?Finally, do you provide opportunities for your team to consider this data and make sense of it? All of these are critical components to building a strong data culture within your institutions.

Though we are all working to impact graduation rates, these measures are lagging indicators. Lagging indicators provide us with a look back at the cumulative experience of students within our institutions. As we collectively implement strategies to eliminate inequities in degree completion by race, ethnicity, and Pell status, the regular use of leading indicators will be a critical tool to get us there.

Leading indicators or early momentum metrics:

  • provide timely, just-in-time data
  • are shorter term measures
  • are actionable metrics that are close to practice
  • are a form of early alert
  • have predictive power, research has shown
  • allow us to test hypotheses and move the equity needle
  • are formative
  • are easier to control

As your teams become familiar with the NSC PDP dashboards – which may look different from some of the institutional data you are used to reviewing because it includes all full-time, part-time, first-time, not first-time student – regardless of when they entered your institution – you can identify the leading indicators that are available to you. These include: first year enrollment, credit accumulation rate, credit completion ratio, gateway course completion, persistence and retention, degree completion, and time to degree as well as the ability to disaggregate by race and first-generation. There is also the ability to benchmark these measures against peer institutions.

We look forward to continuing the data conversation with you through our upcoming data capacity-building opportunities that will be announced next month. These workshops, presentations, and courses will be designed for teams at different points in their development and your participation will be optional.

The New Year will also bring new programming in other areas, tools and resources for use on your campuses, opportunities for collaboration across ILEA colleges and universities, and targeted individual supports. We look forward to sharing more with you.

As we reflect on this year, we feel so inspired by the evidence we have seen in the past couple months alone, of increasing equity organization and momentum on your teams and within your colleges and universities. We hope all of you can take a moment this season to appreciate that progress, too.

We wish you a safe, restful, and rejuvenating holiday season. 2021 awaits!

In partnership for equity,


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ILEA Newsletter – Letter From Our Managing Director

Dear ILEA Partners,

Welcome back to school for a fall semester unlike any other. We have seen your teams up close as they have done whatever it takes to make plans for students to continue high-quality learning, provide new supports for students, and enable them to form social bonds and foster a connection with your colleges – and to do all of this safely both on and off campus. It is a Herculean task and the amount of creativity, innovation, and hard work are evident to all of us. We've also seen quick shifts to alter plans as the semester began and the virus affected students, faculty and staff. We are now beginning to see early reports about the upcoming spring semester, which look to be a continuation of current approaches.

The pandemic has continued to impact lives on and off campus, and has generally contributed to declines in enrollment across the state that cause concern about student access and institutional stability. This summer, campuses saw a significant decrease in enrollments, raising equity concerns, particularly among Black students, rural students, and at community colleges. Early data for the fall suggests that enrollments are down nationally, and among ILEA partners from between 5% and upwards of 20%. However, there are exceptions that give us hope. Northern Illinois University had a 1% increase in total enrollment for fall 2020 over the prior year, driven by an 8% increase in the size of the freshmen class and a 6% improvement in retention of first-year students. The Illinois Board of Higher Education's (IBHE) Stay the Course campaign and the website launched by the PCC this summer, Illinois Colleges Forward, aim to encourage students, parents, and the counselors who advise them that students should continue to pursue their college goals in Illinois whenever possible, even during this extremely challenging year.

Now, more than ever, your ILEA Equity Plans are powerful tools to help address student persistence, completion, and the adverse impacts of COVID-19 on our communities. They provide a roadmap to greater equity in opportunity within your institutions and seek to shine a light on how we can remove unnecessary barriers for students, as well as provide critical supports to those who need them, when they need them. The publishing of 21 institutional equity plans last month represents a significant and deliberate step toward equity in higher education in the state of Illinois, and we congratulate your important step forward. These plans detail approaches to onboarding first-year students, reforming developmental education, diversifying faculty, using data to target interventions, and much more. In the coming months and at the 2020 ILEA Virtual Fall Summit, we look forward to sharing more with you about the strategies within these plans and how we can make connections among ILEA institutions to support implementation and a process of continuous, collective learning and improvement.

PCC was also pleased to announce Catalyst Grants in the amount of $12,000 for all ILEA colleges and universities publishing their Equity Plans this year, as the result of a grant from a local foundation. Please read below and also look for an email from your ILEA Equity Program Manager this week for more information on how to access the Catalyst Grant. We look forward to continuing to identify opportunities for greater philanthropic investment in your equity work.

In the months that remain of 2020, we look forward to seeing you virtually at a number of upcoming events, including at the 2020 ILEA Virtual Fall Summit, which is dedicated to the critical role of faculty in eliminating equity disparities on campus. We have spent a significant amount of time adapting the schedule and session approaches to be conducive to a virtual event, and we look forward to sharing that with all of you. Because we are not bound by physical limitations presented by an in-person event, we encourage you to invite at least 25 faculty and department chairs from your institutions to join us for these sessions. We also hope to see many of you at our ongoing Equity Webinar series and at additional workshops that will be announced in the coming weeks.

We know the demands on your time will continue to be substantial, and we recognize all you do to ensure your students are safe and supported. I hope that despite all of the challenges with which you are faced in this moment, you can enjoy some of the beauty that the fall season offers -- at a safe distance and with a mask, of course.

In partnership for equity,

Lisa Castillo Richmond

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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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