and helps them fill out a Free Application for
Federal Student Aid.
LOOK AT THE DATA
The equity gap might mean something different
for each institution, depending on the communities they serve. Some colleges may see large gaps
in completion rates between students of various
ethnicities; for others, these gaps might show up in
the achievement of students from different genders
or economic groups, or among veterans or students
with disabilities. Leaders should examine their institutions with a critical eye to identify where their
own gaps exist and what might be causing them.
“Look at the data. Let it tell you a story,” says
Maureen Murphy, president of the College of
Southern Maryland (CSM).
By focusing heavily on student success initia-
tives, CSM has increased its number of graduates
by 36 percent over the last five years. “That’s pretty
extraordinary,” Murphy says. But when college
leaders disaggregated the data, they saw that poorer
students of color were not affected by these gains
nearly as significantly. Murphy called closing the
equity gap “our greatest challenge.”
In combing through the data, CSM leadership
discovered the college was losing a significant
number of students in the transition from their
first to second year.
“When we looked more closely at what students who enrolled for their second year had
in common, we saw that in nearly every case,
they knew where they were going and what they
wanted to do,” Murphy says. This insight led the
college to create guided pathways with intrusive
counseling to make sure every student was placed
on a career path early on in their experience.
“We have added structures that don’t allow students to fall through the cracks,” she explains.
CSM also has scaled up a mentoring program
for men of color that began on one of its four
campuses. The program, called Men of Excellence,
brings students together for small group discussions, and it gives them a chance to hear from
leaders at the college and in the community.
"We’re promising not just
financial support, but extensive
wraparound services to help
students complete their degree."
JOSE FIERRO, president, Cerritos College
President Jose Fierro
meets with students.