The Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE) has selected three states—Arizona, Utah, and Wyoming—through a competitive RFP process to participate in its new Task Force on Closing Postsecondary Attainment Gaps.
As part of an intensive, two-year process, WICHE will work with a broad array of stakeholders from these three states to develop state-specific action plans to close postsecondary attainment gaps and ultimately to craft regional recommendations to increase higher education success for underserved students throughout the West.
The Task Force is funded by a $400,000 grant from Indianapolis-based Lumina Foundation, whose goals include increasing the proportion of American adults with postsecondary credentials to 60 percent by 2025. Some cohorts significantly lag the current 46 percent rate for White students and 61 percent rate for Asian students: just 29 percent of Black adults, 24 percent of American Indian/Native Alaskan adults, and 22 percent of Hispanic adults have such credentials. Meanwhile, the pay gap between college-educated and non-college-educated Americans is at its highest in 45 years.
Though Arizona, Utah, and Wyoming have distinct higher education landscapes, their successful candidacies for this project have many parallels. All three states boast enthusiastic equity champions and robust cross-sector collaboration among stakeholders ranging from higher education agency and system executives, to state legislators, to workforce and industry representatives, to philanthropists, to college and university leaders. Yet all three states have equity gaps that this Task Force will aim to close.
“Given the racial, ethnic, and economic diversity of the Western region, we must address persistent postsecondary attainment gaps to remain economically competitive and ensure that students have the education and skills they need to succeed,” says Demarée Michelau, WICHE vice president of policy and research. “This Task Force will catalyze state-level progress toward that end and provide Western leaders with the tools and resources they need to build innovative solutions to meet this critical challenge.”
The work in each state will entail review and analysis of their data, policies, and practices affecting postsecondary attainment. WICHE’s deep well of policy and research experience positions it well to contribute to the development of state-specific solutions that incorporate regional and national context. Arizona, Utah, and Wyoming will receive $30,000 grants in each year of the project to support this work.
Other WICHE projects Lumina has recently supported include a start-up consortium of Native-Serving Institutions, launched in early 2018, and the Interstate Passport, which facilitates friction free-transfer for students across state lines.
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 U.S. regional interstate compacts, promoting innovation, cooperation, resource-sharing, and sound public policy throughout and beyond the American West. 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.