Over the last several years, many states have made significant efforts to increase postsecondary credential attainment overall. In addition, states such as Virginia, New Jersey, and Oregon have included specific goals to address the needs of their marginalized and historically excluded populations.
As a part of its statewide credential attainment initiative, Virginia considers how to best serve those in disparate communities. Officials there apply different equity strategies to specific regions—such as southwest Virginia, where attainment rates are lower than elsewhere in the state. In New Jersey, their attainment goals include milestones and outcomes by age, gender identity, and race/ethnicity. Also, the state has a goal of 250,000 Black, Latino, and Native American individuals attaining postsecondary credentials by 2025. This in addition to the statewide goal that 65 percent of New Jersey residents have a postsecondary credential by 2025.
Initiatives funded by Lumina Foundation’s Talent, Innovation, and Equity grants support states that have demonstrated a commitment to improve higher education attainment for students of color. Recognizing that efforts to make higher education more accessible and affordable are more effective at the state level, the initiative works with Colorado, Oregon, Virginia, and Massachusetts to set equity goals for specific populations and drive innovation and improvement. Massachusetts committed to 43 percent attainment among Black residents and 32 percent among Latino residents—both by 2024. These goals represent a five-percentage point increase for each of those populations from current rates. In Oregon, the state’s Coordinating Commission conducted equity roundtable discussions all over the state, seeking to align equity advocacy with community-based organizations, identify equity champions at the community level, and form a leadership council on equity. Oregon has gone further in its public declarations, declaring itself an anti-racist agency, and committing to confront racial inequities directly in postsecondary education and training systems.
Similarly, The Quality Postsecondary Credential Policy Academy aims to help states develop policies to increase the number of residents with quality credentials. It works with states to help them to define quality for their non-degree credentials and to support these efforts with data policies. Participating states include Alabama, Colorado, Louisiana, New Jersey, Oregon, Virginia, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, Ohio, and Tennessee.
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the nation’s numerous disparities—particularly those rooted in racial difference. In response, since 2020, many higher education institutions have committed to analyzing their institutional structures and implementing approaches to intentionally promote DEI in teaching. These approaches demonstrate a variety of ways to infuse DEI into campus culture and course delivery in ways that foster inclusivity. While the strategies in each element are useful, it’s important to consider the best practices for effectively implementing them. Research has shown that students’ motivation, persistence, and learning outcomes are strongly linked to their sense of belonging. To improve motivation, belonging, achievement, and inclusion for all students, these strategies are based on the evidence-based principles of Culturally Responsive Teaching (CRT).
The goal of this section is to equip stakeholders with the tools and knowledge they need to address equity issues in incremental credentialing. By adopting these promising practices and collecting evidence on their impact, stakeholders can work to create a more equitable system of incremental credentialing that benefits all learners, regardless of their background or circumstances.