Four local colleges and universities announced a partnership Wednesday to join "Moon Shot for Equity," a national initiative to erase racial and ethnic equity gaps in higher education by 2030.
The program, designed and run by education firm EAB, will assist Cincinnati State Technical and Community College, Gateway Community and Technical College, Miami University and Northern Kentucky University in working together to help more students from "historically underserved populations" graduate from college, according to a Wednesday news release.
The universities will use technology from EAB that can track student progress and success, letting advisors know when to step in and offer support or offer congratulations when students do well on a project or midterm. Many local universities have already been using some of this technology, officials said.
"The collaboration will help us use it in a better way, a more impactful way, a more strategic way," Cincinnati State President Monica Posey said. She said she's hoping to develop more pathways for students through Moon Shot.
According to a 2019 report from the National Center for Education Statistics, the six-year graduation rate for first-time, full-time undergraduate students was 74% for Asian students, 64% for white students, 60% for students of two or more races, 54% for Hispanic students, 51% for Pacific Islander students, 40% for Black students and 39% for American Indian/Alaskan Native students.
The COVID-19 pandemic has only made these disparities worse and the need to address them more urgent, Randy Gardner, chancellor of the Ohio Department of Higher Education, said Wednesday.
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“Eliminating equity gaps in education is one of the most important things we can accomplish in our region, state, and country,” Miami President Gregory Crawford said.
The university presidents and community leaders said graduating more diverse learners is a priority, and hope to see more diverse leaders and workers in the area as a result.
"Just think about the impact that one college graduate has in our region," Crawford said. "We just love to see that ripple effect that they bring to our communities."
The Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky region is the second consortium selected by EAB to join the Moon Shot initiative, according to the release. The first consortium of colleges and universities in southeastern Wisconsin participated last October, and the program also announced a group in southeastern Pennsylvania will participate this year.
“For too long, higher education has made the educational journey more arduous than it has to be for underserved student populations,” EAB vice president of partnerships Tom Sugar said. “All of the schools that have joined the Moon Shot for Equity have made good strides already in removing unnecessary obstacles and are committed to making additional institutional changes that will further streamline that journey.”
The schools have committed to adopting 15 best practices in the next five years, including updating academic policies, establishing common academic pathways and providing equity training to university leaders.
"Higher Education Institutions that welcome and graduate large numbers of first-generation, low-income students are engines of economic and social mobility,” NKU President Ashish Vaidya said. “Our institutions are working together to keep the American dream of opportunity alive. We have to continue focusing on all these subpopulations so that their graduation rates continue to rise in preparation for a lifetime of achievement.”
The Moon Shot initiative provides participating schools with research, technology, advisory services and a set of strategies to help build stronger, more equitable college systems, the release states. It also helps connect local institutions so they can take on the equity gap together. Participating institutions are also encouraged to partner with local high schools and community-based organizations.
"Cincinnati State looks forward to leveraging our long-held mission of equity with our partners in this project," Posey said. "Expanding opportunities for all students is crucial to the future of our region, state and workforce."
Sugar said the four institutions announced Wednesday already had a working relationship with EAB or its affiliates, though any school in the region is welcome to join the project.