PCC Letter to Illinois General Assembly Higher Education Committees


As advocates seeking to support institutions in eliminating racial equity gaps across Illinois colleges and universities, the Partnership for College Completion stands in solidarity with the Black community and their calls for justice. This unprecedented period shows how deeply ingrained racial injustice is within systems intended to serve the public, demonstrated by continued violence on the Black community at the hands of law enforcement, inequitable lending, and inequitable access to high-quality healthcare. In higher education, inequitable policies perpetuate college access and completion disparities, limiting Black students' higher education opportunities.

The Partnership recommends three critical policy changes that can have an immediate, significant effect on racial equity. Read the full letter here. 

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Choosing Illinois Community Colleges: Investing in Our Communities

My college journey started at Illinois Central College (ICC), one of Illinois' 48 public community colleges located on a bluff overlooking the Illinois River. My commute from Peoria was 30 minutes by car, 60 by bus which I often had to take. I sometimes worked three jobs to pay for school. I was a scrappy B+ student in high school (HS) and immersed myself in my studies for 12 months before earning a transfer scholarship to Bradley University. That was 1980-1981.

When I reflect on my experiences as well as on the challenges college students today face, I think about the role community colleges play in our higher education ecosystem. My work with the Partnership for College Completion and the Illinois Equity in Attainment Initiative (ILEA) provides me an opportunity to support 17 Illinois community colleges who have committed to being agents of change to address racial and socio-economic disparities on their campuses that result in inequitable graduation rates (35% of all community colleges in Illinois). As I think about community colleges providing a better path forward for many students, three things come to mind:

1) Community: The roots of community colleges are diverse and deeply connected to partnerships with K-12 education, industry, healthcare and government in the communities they serve. These roots support the primary functions of community colleges: providing pathways to 4-year degrees, career and technical training, high school partnerships and continuing education. The communities where our state's community colleges operate include our nation's first public community college, Joliet Junior College (1901), Waubonsee Community College, named after the Potawatomi chief, Waubonsie, College of DuPage (the state's largest CC) and the seven City Colleges of Chicago (CCC), two of which are named for three slain civil rights leaders, Malcolm X College and Kennedy-King College. The communities where our state's community colleges serve a vital role are home to the Illinois Medical District, Mondelez International, Walgreens and United Airlines. In FY 2019, Illinois' 48 community colleges enrolled 664,973 students or nearly 36% of all students (highest across all sectors in the state). That means that across Illinois, one out of every three students who have utilized public services and accessed health care, participated in the local workforce, sent their children to local schools, and spent money in their local communities – essentially supporting their local economy – has been a community college student.

2) Choice: ICC was my only choice. It was affordable. Sometimes choice boils down to where you were born, how much wealth your family has and what kind of curve balls you have already faced before enrolling in college. Community colleges play an important role in providing access for many students who have historically been underserved. According to the American Association of Community Colleges, community colleges serve as the entry point to higher education for over 41% of all undergraduates, including 52% of all Latinx and 42% of all Black students. In 2015-2016, 59% of community college students received some form of financial aid, including federal grants (34%), federal loans (15%) and state aid (22%). Additionally, 29% identify as first generation and 15% are single parents.[1] That means one out of four students enrolling in colleges across the country, chose a community college as their starting point.

3) Costs: In 2018-2019, the annual tuition costs and fees for in-state students enrolling in 30 credit hours at public four-year colleges in Illinois ranged from $11,803 to $16,004.[2] For independent, non-profit colleges, it ranged from $7,600 to $57,006.[3] Comparatively, at IL community colleges, full-time, in-district tuition and fees ranged from $3,504 to $5,220.[4] Though costs are less at community colleges, students received fewer federal (11%) and state (10%) financial aid dollars compared to those at four-year public (federal 29%, state 65%) and private (federal 33%, state 21%) institutions in FY 2010-2011.[5] That means the cost of attending an Illinois community college is 50% less than the lowest cost at a public four-year institution, but not all of the students who need federal and state support to cover the costs receive it.

The cost of attending an Illinois community college is 50% less than the lowest cost at a public four-year institution, but not all of the students who need federal and state support to cover the costs receive it.

As we approach the 2020-2021 academic year, many more students may choose to stay closer to their communities. The pandemic, a loss of a job or caring for a loved one at home may force choices for some. For Latinx, Black, first generation and low-income students, racial and socio-economic systemic barriers have historically played a significant role in their choice. When we consider the social injustices playing out on our streets and the need for additional investment in our communities, we should also consider leveling the playing field for the college students who need it the most. Community colleges that are focused on equity in degree completion and increasing overall rates of student success require greater investment for our most vulnerable students.

My community and the support I received from caring professors and practitioners grounded my love for higher education, and my start at ICC helped shape me into the person I am today. Forty years later, I am certain there are many stories like mine waiting to be told across our prairies, rural areas, suburbs and urban communities. 

[1] American Association of Community colleges, 2020. Fast Facts 2020.

[2] IBHE Records, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), Undergraduate based on 30 credit hours, Tuition and Required Fees, Room and Board for Full-Time, In-State Entering Undergraduate Students, 2016-2017, 2017-2018, and 2018-2019 Academic Years.

[3] IBHE Records, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), Undergraduate based on 30 credit hours, Tuition and Required Fees, Room and Board for Full-Time, First-Time Undergraduate Students, 2016-2017, 2017-2018, and 2018-2019 Academic Years

[4] Illinois Community College Board (ICCB) Records, Annual Tuition and Required Fees, Room and Board for Full-Time, In-District Students at Public Community colleges, 2016-2017, 2017-2018, and 2018-2019 Academic Years.

[5] IBHE Records, Student Financial Aid Survey, Distribution of Financial Aid Dollars in Illinois, All Students by Source, Sector, and Type For Fiscal Year 2010 -2011. 

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The Partnership Stands in Solidarity with Those Fighting for Racial Justice


To do the work that we do is to sit inside and with full awareness of the enduring and unaddressed legacy of racism and injustice on which this country was founded and that continues to permeate every sector of our democracy, including education. The fight for justice in policing practices, in labor and the workforce, in housing policy, in healthcare, in criminal justice, in education, is—as we have been reminded this spring with COVID-19 and now with outcries for justice following the murder of George Floyd in police custody—the fight of this generation, the fight giving wind to our work. 

We stand with others in seeking, with urgency, justice in the near term for Mr. Floyd and his family, and in the long term, justice wherein all institutions of our society ensure that Black Americans have equitable access to the physical safety, educational advancement, and economic prosperity in this country for which they have been long overdue.

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


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 two 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 Aug 9, 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
Governors State University -- Test-optional → Details: For the semesters Fall 2020 and Spring 2021, Governors State University has elected to move to a "test optional" admission process for incoming freshman applicants.
Northwestern University -- Test-optional → Details: SAT or ACT scores (OPTIONAL for 2020-21 cycle).
Illinois State University -- Test-optional → Details: No SAT or ACT score required for summer or fall 2021.
University of Illinois Chicago -- Test-optional Details: Optional for the 2020-2021 admissions cycle.
University of Illinois Springfield -- Test-optional → "The University of Illinois Springfield will not require college bound high school seniors to submit standardized test scores as part of the application process for fall 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic."
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign -- Test-optional for Fall 2021 freshman applicants.
Elmhurst University -- Test-optional pilot for 2020-21 application year.
Greenville University -- Test-optional
Illinois Institute of Technology -- Test-optional for Spring 2021 and Fall 2021. "Students applying for fall 2020 admission are still required to submit their official standardized test scores.
Lewis University -- Test-optional → Details: "Lewis University has adopted a test-optional admission policy for incoming freshmen applying for the Fall 2021 semester"
North Park University -- Test-optional for 2020-2021 admissions → Details: "The application process for 2020-2021 will emphasize the whole student, as it always has, just without an SAT/ACT test score.
Saint Xavier University -- Test-blind for Fall 2021 applicants
Wheaton College -- Test-optional → Details: The submission of standardized test results is optional for all candidates.
Western Illinois University - Test-optional for Fall 2020 and Fall 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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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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PCC Response to Governor Pritzker's 2020 Budget Address


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.


"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.


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.


"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.


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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Three ILEA Schools Make Aspen’s Top 150 List


CHICAGO, November 20, 2019 — The Partnership for College Completion congratulates ILEA members Elgin Community College, Joliet Junior College, and Moraine Valley Community College for their selection as eligible institutions to compete for the 2021 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence. The $1 million prize awarded every two years by the highly-regarded Aspen Institute recognizes high achievement and performance among community colleges in the United States. With a focus on student success, the Prize highlights institutions with outstanding achievements in four areas: student learning, certificate and degree completion, employment and earnings, and high-levels of access and success for students of color and low-income students.

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2019 ILEA Fall Summit Recap

The third ILEA Summit was held October 30, 2019, on the campus of Moraine Valley Community College (MVCC) with over 150 staff, faculty and administrators from the ILEA cohort in attendance. The theme of the Summit was "Equity-Minded, Data Driven: Building Campus Capacity to Close Completion Gaps."

The day-long event was kicked off with a warm welcome from MVCC President Dr. Sylvia Jenkins, and MVCC Student Trustee Drew Williams, followed by a presentation from Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and other speakers.

Morning keynote presentations from Dr. Kenyatta Lovett, Assistant Commissioner of Workforce Services at the Tennessee Department of Labor & Workforce Development, and Dr. Anthony Carnevale, Research Professor and Director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, highlighted the importance of using state-level and workforce data to build supports for students that connect college to career.

During the afternoon, Dr. Sarah Whitley, Senior Director of First-generation Student Success at NASPA, focused on higher education institutions supporting first-generation students, while Dr. Jillian Kinzie, Associate Director of the Indiana University for Postsecondary Research and the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) Institute discussed the importance of using student engagement data in their respective workshops.

Lisa Castillo Richmond, Managing Director of PCC presented on the "State of ILEA: From Planning to Implementation" and Mike Abrahamson, PCC Policy Analyst, presented on the recently released PCC College Affordability Studies. Additional sessions were conducted on strategy topics including: Building a data-informed and equity focused culture; Providing access and supports for undocumented students; Using student voice in our work; and Leveraging National Student Clearinghouse (NSC) dashboards.

PCC would like to thank all presenters and participants of this fall summit.

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Meet Lisa M. Lyons, Saint Xavier University

What is your role at the Saint Xavier University?

I serve as an Academic Resource Advisor and Rebound Program Coordinator at Saint Xavier University.

How did your college/university support your success in earning your degree(s)?
Although my parents have some college/ trade school under their belt, I really had to figure out the college thing on my own. I was active in high school with sports and activities but did not participate in college preparation programs or mentoring. I don't even recall going to a lot of college fairs in my junior and senior year of high school. I attended Western Illinois University (WIU) and from day one I knew I wanted to be involved and take advantage of the many opportunities afforded to me. I found refuge in the Gwendolyn Brooks Cultural Center, it was a cultural center for African and African-American programs and activities. The Director at that time was Belinda Carr and she took me and so many others under her wing and showed us how to navigate the University and its resources. I branched out and got involved with various areas of the university. I made a huge effort to have a positive working relationship with all my professors. Many of my professors embraced me and wanted to see me succeed. I took on several leadership roles and would land an internship working with the Vice President of Student Affairs who was Dr. Garry Johnson at that time. The internship would fuel my interest in working in higher education.

One program that stood out to me was the Multicultural Orientation. It was held outside the normal orientation and it gave students of color an opportunity to learn about campus-based resources and get to see faculty and staff that looked like them or at least understood their concerns. Students were given a resource guide of go-to persons and places. There was also the Multicultural Graduation banquet where graduates and undergraduates of the graduating class were honored and celebrated. There were additional awards that were given out in various areas of leadership. In case you were wondering, I got the Leadership award as an undergraduate and graduate student. I enjoyed my experience at WIU so much that I stayed for graduate school. Today, I still keep in touch with the faculty, staff, and administrators, which shows they made a huge impact on my life.

What excites you about equity work at your institution?
I feel like equity is starting to finally be addressed. I believe people are starting to realize that there are a number of things that need to be handled. The cultural make-up of the university is changing, and we, too, must be able to change at the same time. I am excited to see what new ideas and programs can be birthed during this process. I believe this will provide an opportunity to get more people involved and excited about working with our students.

In your role, how do you impact equitable outcomes for your students?
It's important to let students know they run the same race. They may come from different racial backgrounds, economic status, educational institutions but the goal is the same. I look at the incoming freshmen class and I have given them all the same tools and support to kick off this semester and be successful. The students all start the race at the same time, at the same place. It does not matter if they were first to be accepted or barely got into the university. Now some students will sprint to the finish line with no problems, other will run into roadblocks, and then there will be those that take a detour. My role is to ensure that everyone is being advised according to their needs, and that I do my job with integrity. 

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NSC Postsecondary Data Partnership - Update


NSC has updated the data intake file process for the Postsecondary Data Partnership and has asked us to make sure all our institutions are aware. Some of the most consistent feedback NSC has received from the pilot institutions regarding the submission process is that the method in which Terms are defined in the questionnaire and then referenced in the data file and dashboards can be confusing. This had lead to complications and sometimes multiple conversations with PDP Service. We have updated this process to alleviate these concerns. In the Data Intake File that you will use for data submission in September 2019, the PDP will both standardize the terms and directly collect the respective term dates in the data files.

NSC has published an update to the Submission Guide that highlights this change on the PDP Website. Please remember that these new data intake files will be the only valid file format starting in September submission. As you get started coding for your data for submission, please refer to the updated Submission Guide and new data intake file templates.

If you have any questions or concerns, please reach out to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

If you are still working on getting the agreement signed for your institution, keep in mind that while your data submission window will open in September, NSC should receive your signed agreements as soon as possible.

Please remember to copy Lisa Castillo Richmond at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. when submitting your signed forms to the NSC.

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Meet Nick Branson, College of Lake County

Friday, 07 June 2019

What is your role at the College of Lake County?
I have served as the Assistant Director of Institutional Effectiveness, Planning, & Research at CLC since 2012. As CLC works to centralize and institutionalize our student success work, I will be serving as the Assistant Director of Student Success Strategy and leading a newly formed Student Success Team.

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

I feel very fortunate for the higher education experiences I have had, but my experience was not without challenges that many students face in finding a path and navigating a complex system. I entered Loyola University Chicago as a first-generation college student, uncertain of whether it was a good fit for me or what career path I would want to pursue. I chose it primarily because I was offered a much-needed scholarship to attend, but am very grateful for the wonderful educational experience that followed. When I found my passion in studying sociology, poverty, and urban issues, I also found faculty members who were not only great instructors, but great promoters of experiential learning opportunities. It was through my instructors that I learned about studying abroad, an internship opportunity, and a community-based research fellowship. These were life-changing experiences for me that motivated me to complete my Bachelor's degree and find work that benefits my community. Without the faculty connecting me to these opportunities, I would have never found them and am not sure where my path would have led. I completed a Master's in Social Sciences at University of Chicago next, and now several years later am working to complete a Ph.D. in Research Methodology back at Loyola. Today, I find support at Loyola, but also am grateful for the great support I have from my colleagues at CLC as I continue on my educational path.

What excites you about equity work at your institution?
I am always excited to be closely connected to the equity work at CLC. For me, the ultimate reason we do this work is what excites me. The ability to leverage educational experiences we provide as a community college to truly improve the lives of our community members is a huge motivator. I am passionate about the role we play, and that education in general plays, in addressing social and economic inequities.

With the current work at CLC, I am also most excited that we will be applying an equity lens to the broad, institutional improvements we plan so that we can impact the most students. It is important for us to use evidence of inequity to identify, design, and implement full-scale, personalized, and culturally-relevant strategies. We want to focus on systemic changes that will benefit all of our students, and especially our underserved students. As we take this approach, our equity work is not separate from, but rather becomes our student success work.

In your role, how do you impact equitable outcomes for your students?
In my background in institutional effectiveness, I have served to voice the data stories of our students' experiences from an equity perspective. Starting with our data has been a critical step to helping the college community understand and see the disparities in outcomes across racial-ethnic groups, age groups, gender, socio-economic status, and other categories. We have also collected data to assess our efforts and determine how they are or are not working for students of different backgrounds. As a researcher, I find that it is also important to directly experience the programs and hear the students' voices so I work to observe programs and lead focus groups with students to more thoroughly understand our work. Evaluating what we do is a critical process to finding what is working and modifying what is not so that we can have the greatest impact on our students' success.

It is not enough, though, to simply communicate the data about our students. Our outcomes compel us to take action, and I am excited to be working with our ILEA team and Student Success Team to develop strategies based on our evidence. My biggest impact for our students' success will not be through building awareness, but through partnering with faculty, staff, and leaders at CLC to leverage data in the process of creating an environment where all of our students can succeed.

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SAT's Adversity Index and the limitations of standardized tests in assessing students potential for college success

​Tuesday, 21 May 2019

The College Board, which markets and sells the SAT, announced last week that it will release an "adversity index" that it has been testing for the past several years, to all colleges by 2020. This index aims to put students' academic achievements into the context of where they lived and attended high school. This measure of relative advantage or disadvantage will be available to admissions counselors at the colleges to which students apply, though not to students themselves. This new measure, while well intended, highlights the limitations of standardized tests in assessing students potential for college success.

In promoting the new measure, the College Board admits that a standardized test cannot fully gauge a student's potential and that in admission decisions, context matters. The stated goal of the "disadvantage level" is to help colleges identify resourceful students who have persevered in the face of adversity. Other than one example, however, the College Board has not detailed how the score should be used to contextualize SAT scores to improve equity in admissions decisions.

Moreover, it is unclear how the adversity score could correct either the deeper issues underlying how college admissions are affected by the adversity they seek to identify, or even the immediate issues that use of this test has created. This new measure, like the use of the SAT in scholarship and remediation decisions, could also have unintended consequences that negatively affect the students it claims to help.

Many studies show that the SAT is not as predictive of college performance as high school GPA, and that standardized test scores more closely correlate to family income and parents' education levels. For example, one study shows a 400-point gap between the highest and lowest-income test-takers. Large racial gaps also persist -- In Illinois, black and Latino students averaged 924 and 969 composite scores, respectively, compared to 1,113 for whites and 1,202 for Asian test takers. Drawing on these disparities, critics of the SAT have long argued that the test reflects and exacerbates racial and socioeconomic inequities. By leaning in on the adversity score, the College Board seems to agree. So, it raises the question: if a college really wants to bring equity in admissions across the diversity of postsecondary institutions, and measures like high school GPA are more predictive of college performance and graduation, why use the SAT at all?

Of course, the College Board would not recommend discontinuing use of the SAT, which added more than 130,000 Illinois test takers in scaling last year. However that idea is gaining traction, as a growing number of institutions are implementing test-optional admissions. This practice was recently adopted by the University of Chicago, for example, showing that this practice can be viable for institutions of any selectivity level. Early results from nearly 30 colleges show that moving away from standardized tests like the SAT can de-emphasize measures that correlate strongly with wealth and race, giving low-income students and students of color more access to institutions that lead to greater economic opportunity.

By including adversity scores along with test results, the College Board is essentially acknowledging the SAT's role in perpetuating inequity in college admissions, but it passes responsibility for actual change on to colleges and universities. Institutions should seize this opportunity to deemphasize standardized tests altogether in favor of measures, like high school GPA, which are more predictive and can increase access and equity in college admissions decisions.

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Prioritizing Equity in Postsecondary Education for Chicago’s Students

​Monday, 20 May 2019

To: Mayor-Elect Lori Lightfoot
Re: Prioritizing Equity in Postsecondary Education for Chicago's Students

Who We Are
The Partnership for College Completion (PCC) is a non-profit organization aimed at eliminating state and institutional achievement gaps in college degree completion for low-income and first generation students and students of color in the seven-county region in and surrounding Chicago by 2025.

Policy Recommendations to Help Close College Achievement Gaps

Governance and Finance

  • Establish a community college equity council and taskforce on funding and partnerships
  • Maintain a diverse and equity-minded Board for City Colleges of Chicago (CCC)
  • Advocate for state-level funding formula change

Expand CPS institutional framework for addressing inequity to CCC
Similar to the equity council and ensuing policy statement that the Mayor-elect's campaign outlined for CPS, a community college equity council could provide crucial guidance for the direction of City Colleges of Chicago (CCC). Further, to secure additional resources and partnerships needed for our students, the Mayor's Office should regularly convene a funding and partnerships taskforce of community college representatives, students, non-profit advocacy organizations, and members of Chicago's business and philanthropic communities.

Diverse and equity-minded CCC Board of Trustees
CCC serves all of the City and much of the State's public 2-year students, many of whom are low-income and more than 70% of whom are Black or Latino, and the current board is relatively representative of its student population. New members must continue to reflect the diversity of CCC's campuses and have a strong understanding of how to best serve a diverse student body.

Advocate for state-level funding formula change
The current funding formula for community colleges does not adequately factor in equity and requires an additional $13 million in funding irrespective of formula just to achieve its baseline level. For CCC to succeed, it needs for Illinois to have a more equitable, sustainable, and evidence-driven community college funding formula. The Mayor's Office, perhaps through the aforementioned taskforce, should make recommendations to the General Assembly and Governor's Office about funding formula changes that bring equitable funding to CCC.

Human Capital

Retain CCC Chancellor Juan Salgado and CPS CEO Dr. Janice Jackson
In their short time leading Chicago's education systems, both CPS CEO Dr. Janice Jackson and CCC Chancellor Juan Salgado have championed initiatives aimed at improving equity and transparency and have been laser-focused on improving student outcomes at every stage of the education pipeline. Retaining and supporting Chicago's equity-minded leaders, and their initiatives, is a critical first step to maintaining momentum towards closing Chicago's equity gaps in high school and college completion.

Student Supports

  • Make scaling co-requisite remediation a top priority for CCC
  • Reevaluate Star Scholarship program criteria
  • Scale transitional math implementation

Make scaling co-requisite remediation an immediate, top priority for CCC
Developmental education, or remediation, is one of the greatest college completion barriers and equity issues facing Chicago. Developmental education classes costs students time and money and do not count toward degree completion. Black and Latino students are disproportionately represented in developmental courses, and of those who enroll in developmental coursework, only 9% of Black students and 16% of Latino students will graduate, compared to 25% of their White peers. About 12,000 City Colleges students were placed into developmental education in FY17, and fewer advanced to take a college-level class (33%) than decided not to come back the next year (51%). Co-requisite remediation is a method of development education that doubles or triples rates of students passing college-level courses by enabling them to take credit-bearing courses as soon as they get to college, while providing them with in-time support. City Colleges can implement at scale, and in doing so help thousands more students persist, and ultimately transfer or graduate from CCC, but to do so, reform must be a clear, high priority.

Reevaluate STAR Scholarship criteria for equity
The Star Scholarship is a driving force behind the improved outcomes and enrollment stability at CCC. More importantly, it offers college access and opportunity to our most under-served and under-resourced student groups. This opportunity should not be limited to students who have achieved a 3.0 and a certain threshold on standardized tests. Expanding Star scholarships will increase enrollment at CCC and ultimately improve the pipeline that runs from CPS graduation to economic opportunity in Chicago.

Scale transitional math implementation
Every year, nearly 46% of Illinois high school graduates and 61% of CPS students who enroll in community college in the state are placed into developmental education. In 2016, Governor Rauner signed the Postsecondary Workforce and Readiness (PWR) Act, designed to bridge K-12 and postsecondary institutions, including four strategies aimed at helping students become college and career ready. One such strategy is transitional math instruction, which empowers high schools and community colleges to enter into a partnership to help high school students with math readiness needs. If successfully implemented, transitional math will decrease the number of Illinois' high school graduates who are placed in remediation and improve college-level course pass rates. So far about a dozen schools are already implementing transitional math, and more are looking into expanding this initiative. For the City to position itself as a leader in college readiness, scaling transitional math and English within CPS and at charter schools must be a priority that the new administration drives.

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