This month, the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE) will initiate a Task Force on Closing Postsecondary Attainment Gaps—thanks to a $400,000 Lumina Foundation grant—through which WICHE policy and research experts will bring together stakeholders in select states to increase higher education credential attainment for underserved student populations.
The WICHE Task Force goals are aligned with Lumina Foundation’s Goal 2025, which aims to increase the proportion of American adults with postsecondary credentials to 60 percent by 2025. White and Asian populations nationally now meet this goal: 61 percent of such Americans ages 25 to 64 have an associate’s degree or higher. But college education lags considerably for other races/ethnicities, as just 29 percent of Black adults, 24 percent of American Indian/Native Alaskan adults, and 21 percent of Hispanic adults have such credentials.
The Hispanic attainment numbers are especially concerning for the American West that WICHE serves, given the region’s projected Hispanic population growth. This will make the workforce more reliant on groups historically underrepresented in higher education, at a time when the pay gap between college-educated and non-college-educated Americans is at its highest in 45 years.
WICHE recently released an RFP seeking three Western states to participate in the Task Force. WICHE will work with selected states to conduct policy and data gap analyses, and design state action plans to close postsecondary attainment gaps tailored to that state’s unique context. Common threads from this work will form the basis for recommendations applicable throughout and beyond the WICHE region.
“All states have gaps between the proportion of college-educated workers they need, and the proportion of adults qualified to fill those needs,” WICHE President Joe Garcia says. “To close those gaps, they need to increase higher education success rates for historically underserved groups, and this WICHE initiative will help them do that.”
Lumina has awarded grants for several WICHE projects over the years. One such project, a consortium of Native-Serving Institutions, also launched last month. The Interstate Passport, which facilitates friction free-transfer for students across state lines, receives Lumina support, as have prior WICHE projects that include a network and policy solutions aimed toward increasing adult college completion.
About Lumina Foundation: Lumina Foundation is an independent, private foundation in Indianapolis that is committed to making opportunities for learning beyond high school available to all. Lumina envisions a system that is easy to navigate, delivers fair results, and meets the nation’s need for talent through a broad range of credentials. The Foundation’s goal is to prepare people for informed citizenship and for success in a global economy.
About WICHE: Established by Congress in 1953, WICHE is one of four regional interstate compacts in the U.S. WICHE’s programs include the Western Undergraduate Exchange, which saves more than 40,000 students more than $375 million annually in tuition; a report, Knocking at the College Door, that’s the nation’s preeminent resource for demography projections of college-age students; and the WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies (WCET), the leading U.S. convener for innovation in educational technology. Visit our website for more information.