I recently had the opportunity to spend a quick 36 hours at SXSWEdu and it was great to be back on the road and talking with people in the field again. And while I didn’t get the chance to dig into all of the great content offered there, I got a renewed sense that we are at or nearing a moment of major change for higher education – a moment for transformation.
College and university leaders are also sensing this moment. A recent survey of presidents found that nearly three-quarters (71%) say that their institutions must fundamentally change their business models or other operations. But how do we turn a sense into action that yields results for our students – especially Black, Latino, and Indigenous students and students from low-income backgrounds
Northern Arizona University (NAU), one of our institutional partners, provides an example of one approach to transformation. Its new strategic roadmap leads with a bold vision – leading the nation in delivering equitable value to students – and follows that with commitments to boosting retention, reducing attainment disparities, and expanding opportunity and social capital through initiatives such as a statewide internship network.
There are many more NAUs out there, and we look forward to partnering with them in the years ahead. Whatever their approach to transformation, our bottom line should be the same – eliminating race, ethnicity, and income as predictors of student success.
Pursuing Equity at National Scale
A growing number of colleges and universities are working to eliminate disparities in student outcomes by race and income, including institutions that have national (and even global) reach. Our National Scale Enterprise (NSE) portfolio features the work of three of these institutions – Arizona State University (ASU), Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU), and Western Governors University (WGU). All three of these institutions have set aggressive targets and timelines for enrolling and graduating more Black, Latino, and Indigenous students and students from low-income backgrounds, with the goal of eliminating attainment disparities over the next several years.
Check out ASU’s strategic enterprise plan for an example of how these goals play into the institution’s larger plans to become a National Service University and WGU’s annual report for a look at their equity targets.
What Does Transformation Look Like in Practice?
“Transformation” is a big word with a lot of different meanings in higher education, so what does it look like on the ground at colleges and universities? How do institutions even start the transformation process? Inside Higher Ed recently sat down with Michael Sorrell of Paul Quinn College, Michelle Weise of National University System, and Bridget Burns of the University Innovation Alliance to discuss the difficult but rewarding work of bringing comprehensive change to colleges and universities.