Letter from the Executive Director—May 2022

It is commencement season. The performance of the rituals we so look forward to when all the hard work pays off. This is a time that represents so many things to our students, their families, and ourselves: a culmination, transition,  celebration, new beginning, growth, accomplishment. For the first time in more than two years, our colleges and universities are celebrating their first in-person spring commencements. We aren’t the same as we were back when our last group of graduates crossed the stage. The toll of the past few years has been heavy. We work differently. We conceptualize time differently. We prioritize what is important to us, reject what is not serving us well, and feel even more urgency to fix our broken systems so that college in Illinois is affordable, and far greater numbers of our Black and Latinx students can access college and complete the degrees they work so hard to earn. Read more here.

Board News

This quarter, PCC was pleased to continue its strategic vision for expanding Board capacity and diversity with the approval of four new members, Valerie Butt (Zurich North America), Marcella Nurse (Netflix), Tina Tchen (formerly TIME’S UP Now), and Felicia Davis Blakely (Chicago Foundation for Women).

Valerie Butt is Zurich North America’s U.S. National Accounts Head of Customer Strategy. Valerie holds a Bachelor’s degree and MBA in risk management and finance from the University of Georgia. In 2010, she was named Top Women in Insurance (“Women to Watch”) by Business Insurance Magazine. 

Marcella Nurse is an HR Business Partner and Director of Talent at Netflix, supporting the Film, Music, and Intellectual Property Businesses. She formerly held high level positions at Amazon, Microsoft, and Goldman Sachs. She earned her Master’s in Education from Harvard University. 

Tina Tchen is the former Assistant to President Barack Obama and Chief of Staff to First Lady Michelle Obama, serving in the Obama Administration from 2011-2017. She is also the former the President and CEO of TIME’S UP Now and the TIME’S UP Foundation.

Felicia Davis Blakley is the President and CEO of the Chicago Foundation for Women. A native of the South Side of Chicago, Blakley has worked in Chicago’s city government and the Mayor’s Office as Inaugural Executive Director for the Mayor’s Office of Public Engagement, Commissioner at the Department of Buildings, and Deputy Mayor for Public Safety.

Public Policy

Illinois Legislative Session Recap

Despite the unusual session format and lighter bill list, there were some significant legislative victories for higher education this year, most notably a $122 million increase in the Monetary Award Program (MAP). This extraordinary investment will help more students across Illinois be able to afford college and finish their education. MAP is essential to ensuring that higher education is accessible to everyone who wants a college degree. Other higher education highlights of the FY23 budget include a 5% increase in college and university funding and an increase in investments in financial aid programs that will help make college more affordable for students seeking careers with high market demand. We must continue to make these strong investments so that every student has a chance to thrive in Illinois in the years to come. Thank you to whose advocacy efforts help make these developments a reality!  

Advocacy Recap

Throughout session, PCC and other advocates took action for Illinois college and university students and this March, joined Young Invincibles in holding a Virtual Advocacy Day to elevate student voices and experiences and urge lawmakers to pass the proposed increased investment in MAP. Advocate voices were heard and now thousands more Illinois students will be able to afford their degrees. Read more about Advocacy Day here and learn more ways you can continue to take action for equity in higher ed by contacting PCC’s Community Engagement Manager, Sonianne Lozada at slozada@partnershipfcc.org. 

Lumina Grant

This spring, PCC was awarded a $200,000 grant from Lumina Foundation to educate the public by raising awareness about the critical need for an adequate, stable, and equity-centered funding distribution model for Illinois’ 12 public universities. These funds will help support the Partnership’s public awareness building efforts including the development of a report on funding adequacy in higher education and the convening of a series of community conversations across the state. 

Read more about what happened this legislative session in the latest volume of our Policy Quarterly.

College and University Partnerships

The second annual Illinois Equity in Attainment (ILEA) Initiative Equity Institute was held February 24-25, 2022 with record-setting attendance of nearly 600 participants. Staff, faculty and administrators from all 25 ILEA colleges and universities attended the Institute themed Leveraging This Moment To Sustain Equity-Mindedness in Higher Education. 

The Institute kicked-off with opening remarks from PCC’s Executive Director, followed by a keynote address, Embracing Racial Equity: LBCC’s Journey From Color-blind to Race-consciousness in Leadership and Practice from Dr. Mike Muñoz, President and Superintendent, Long Beach City College.  Dr. Gina Ann Garcia, Associate Professor at the University of Pittsburgh and a researcher and expert on Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs) led a presentation on Leading for Racial Equity and Social Justice at HSIs.

PCC is grateful to ILEA members from Richard J. Daley College, President Janine E. Janosky, Patricia Aumann, Erika de la Riva and Silvia Villa for providing the pre-Equity Institute blog, “Mobilizing Holistic Support to Ensure Retention and Success in a Time of Crisis”, Anthony Ramos (Elgin Community College) who participated in our Twitter Chat event titled, “Supporting Students Holistically at Hispanic-Serving Institutions” and to Dr. Brandon Nichols (Olive-Harvey College), Blanca Jara (Morton College), Dr. Claudia Mercado (Harper College), Dr. Stephanie Quirk (College of DuPage), Dr. Kristi Nelms and Emma Hall (Blackburn College) and Erika de la Riva (Daley College) who served on panel presentations at the Equity Institute.

This year, PCC introduced a new ILEA learning support called Equity Circles for Change (EC4C). The EC4C is ILEA’s version of a learning community or community of practice. This year’s EC4C focused on “Creating Equitable Outcomes at Hispanic-Serving Institutions” as ILEA institutions enroll over 60% of the Latinx undergraduates in the state of Illinois. Twenty-three ILEA members from 14 different institutions participate in this EC4C. The EC4C will convene again in AY22-23. Read more about the EC4C here.

Staff News

This March, Lauren Grimaldi joined PCC as the new Communications Associate. Prior to joining PCC, Lauren worked in politics at both Illinois and nationally-focused organizations. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science from Roosevelt University and a Master’s in Public Policy from DePaul University. 

Before joining PCC as the Operations Associate, Cameron Heimann worked in diverse operations roles, engaging with diverse communities in St. Louis, Mo. Cameron gained a passion for improving equity in higher education based on his experiences while attending the University of Missouri, where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science and German. 

Public Awareness and Communications

PCC in the News and on the Road

Amid the excitement of the historic Spring Legislative Session of the Illinois General Assembly, PCC continued to establish itself as a leading voice in Illinois higher education. This April, Policy Manager Mike Abrahamson spoke with WNIJ about the additional investment of $122M into MAP and why lawmakers need to keep up the momentum of prioritizing higher education in the future. As the work of the Commission on Equitable Public University Funding continues to progress toward making a recommendation for an equitable funding model, PCC’s Executive Director Lisa Castillo Richmond spoke with reporter Elyssa Cherney about the importance of this work. 

External Presentations

It’s been a busy time for PCC staff! We hosted our Virtual Advocacy Day in March to lift up student voices and advocate for the historic $122M in additional investments in MAP funding and presented and gave public comment at Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE) meetings this spring, before the Illinois House Higher Education Committee, and at other higher ed-focused convenings.

Here’s where else PCC discussed its policy and practice efforts to increase equitable student outcomes in higher education across Illinois:

  • 60×25 (Illinois Education and Career Success Network) Conference
  • Illinois Community College Trustees Association – Western Region
  • Association for Public Policy Analysis & Management
  • Virtual Advocacy Day
  • Association of American Colleges and Universities (AACU)
  • Navigating Regional Equity Initiatives presentation
  • US Commission on Civil Rights —IL Advisory Committee Presentation

In the Spotlight: Issues of Equity in Higher Ed News

Here is a selection of national news articles over the past several weeks that shed light on the challenges underrepresented college students and under-resourced institutions are facing, and explore what institutions, states, and the federal government are doing to remove barriers and address disparities.

Teen Vogue Series on Student Parents

IHEP Report on Returning Students

Housing Shortage, Soaring Rents Squeeze US College Students

Upcoming Events

June 9, July 14, August 11 – Coalition for Higher Ed Funding Meeting email slozada@partnershipfcc.org

Nov 2-4 – Save the Date! 2022 ILEA Summit email jlopez@partnershipfcc.org

Keep Following Us

As our organization continues to grow and fight for equitable, accessible and affordable higher education system, follow us on social media to keep in touch and keep track of what’s happening!