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Equity In Action - Building Culture Through Policy & People

Higher education functions as the gateway to opportunity only if you can access it and succeed within. Under current policies and systems, many postsecondary institutions, specifically Predominantly White Institutions (PWIs), render themselves inaccessible to large factions of the American community.

The American public views the upper echelon of these institutions as top-tier, elite, and superior locales of higher learning, therefore placing PWIs on a hill like an ivory tower. Dismantling systemic oppression within institutions, however, is not an easy practice, and changing institutional culture takes many years. It is important to note that different types of high-ranking, PWI institutions have different needs depending on public versus private status, small versus large, and other signifiers. Pressing questions that currently face all institutions, yet especially PWIs, include:

  • How should institutional leadership structures change to accomodate for diversity, equity, and inclusivity needs?

  • In what ways can hiring practices be altered to ensure the hiring of diverse faculty and staff?

  • How can leaders enhance their visions and messaging to mold excellent, equitable, and high-functioning organizations?

For many institutional leaders, these questions are even further complicated by issues of diversity, equity, and inclusivity in their own environments. In the face of the Black Lives Matter movement, these institutional leaders face pressure from a variety of bodies, including their students, faculty, donors, and more who seek to make systemic changes for combating racial histories. Below are suggestions to begin the conversation on the creation of inclusive access policies that may promote diverse and equitable opportunities for all potential postsecondary students.

  • Expand funding for admissions and transfer offices to ensure the ability to recruit, market, and reach out to communities of color and other underserved communities

  • Create transfer pathway programming with local community colleges to ensure that those at 2-year institutions (often students with marginalized identities) have a shot a obtaining a 4-year degree

  • Change hiring policies and practices so that they may uplift admissions and transfer faculty, staff, and administrators who have a broad range of backgrounds and experiences

Creating policies geared towards the promotion of diversity, equity, and inclusivity will look different for every postsecondary institution. However, policymakers, government officials, and researchers have all proven that having a postsecondary credential, regardless of the type (certificate, associate’s, bachelor’s, or beyond) correlates with upward mobility, personal health, as well as overall wealth; therefore, it is vital for postsecondary institutions, especially PWIs, to do the work to create higher educational opportunities for all. Higher education institutions have a responsibility to serve, uplift, and inspire the communities around them, and must do so in ways that are just and equitable.