A Guide to Statewide Attainment Goals for Racial Equity Advocates

A college education has never been more important. Over 99 percent of all jobs created during the recovery from the 2008 recession went to workers with at least some college experience. Nearly two-thirds of all jobs in the United States now require some form of postsecondary education. For most Americans, in most communities, a high school diploma is no longer enough to access the middle class.

However, as a college degree has become increasingly essential, getting one remains decidedly unequal. In Ed Trust’s analysis of the State of Higher Education Equity, we found significant racial degree attainment differences between Black and Latino adults, and White adults, age 25-64. In such a diverse nation — where more than half of public school students are students of color — this educational inequality is a threat to a healthy economy, which depends on well-trained workers, as well as to a healthy democracy, which depends on well-informed citizens.

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Fortunately, there is reason to be hopeful: Policymakers across the U.S. seem to be embracing a renewed commitment to expanding and enhancing educational opportunities. National and state leaders have set ambitious goals to increase degree attainment rates, or the share of adults with a college degree or postsecondary credential.

For advocates for educational justice, it’s our job to remain ever vigilant to ensure that these goals are designed with equity in mind, and pursued with the same enthusiasm expressed during their adoption. It’s up to advocates to push policymakers and state leaders to incorporate an explicit and targeted focus on opportunities and outcomes for students of color.

This guide offers a primer on statewide college degree attainment goals and ideas for what to demand from policymakers to ensure students of color are prioritized as part of statewide higher education strategies.

A National Analysis of Racial Equity in Statewide Attainment Goals

Action Items: What Equity Advocates Can Do

Next steps for advocates will depend on where their states currently are in setting an attainment goal and centering racial equity. Find your state below to get suggestions for how to move forward. Then look up your state in the appendix to find additional state-specific details and links to related materials.

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Aiming for Equity