It’s a new year — a time for bold resolutions and renewed commitments. January also marks the start of new legislative sessions in D.C. and in state houses across the country, where new and returning policymakers try to make good on campaign promises, including those related to college access and affordability.

A college degree is the surest pathway to securing a family-supporting job, so it’s no surprise that the past year was marked by urgent and widespread calls for a more accessible and affordable system of higher education. But as Ed Trust’s recent research shows, Black and Latino students continue to face extensive barriers to entering and completing college, resulting in persistent and — in some cases, growing — gaps in degree attainment by race. In fact, growth in degree attainment among White adults has outpaced that of Black and Latino adults nationwide, resulting in gaps that were larger in 2016 than they were in 2000.

To eliminate the barriers students of color face on college campuses — and increase the number who even step foot on a campus — race and racial equity must be discussed honestly and addressed with intention.  But with so much variation in state policies and context, where does one start? One approach is to look to statewide degree attainment goals, which have been established by policymakers and higher education leaders in 43 states. Ed Trust’s new resource, Aiming for Equity: A Guide to Statewide Attainment Goals for Racial Equity Advocates, offers racial equity advocates a primer on statewide college degree attainment goals and presents ideas for what to demand from policymakers to ensure students of color are prioritized.

The guide includes:

  • A national analysis of the extent to which statewide attainment goals have addressed racial equity
  • A list of models and resources that stakeholders can look to for examples of best practices
  • Action steps for advocates based on their states’ progress on setting attainment goals that center racial equity
  • An appendix with links to additional materials and information on each of the 43 existing statewide degree attainment goals

Our hope is that by using this information, advocates will push state policymakers and higher education leaders throughout the U.S. to take advantage of this incredible opportunity — the overwhelming support for improving higher education access and outcomes — and ensure that their efforts focus on addressing racial inequities. That’s a resolution we should all commit to keeping in 2019 and beyond.