Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE)

Two evidence team members sit down to discuss CUE's equity initiative at PASSHE universities.

In fall 2011, the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education hired CUE to implement a two-year Equity Scorecard™ project aimed at expanding access and improving completion outcomes for its students, particularly those from historically underrepresented groups. “Ensuring access and success for all qualified students is not just a national agenda – it’s the right thing to do,” said Kathleen Howley, PASSHE senior associate vice chancellor of academic and student affairs.

According to the system’s leadership, the partnership with CUE is critical to achieving goals related to access, success and effective use of public resources in its performance-based funding program, which rewards campuses for improvements in each of the three themes. CUE researchers will assist all fourteen of PASSHE’s universities in developing equity indicators and benchmark goals that will help them increase access and graduation rates for historically under-served student populations. Campus team members will learn to use quantitative and qualitative data to uncover barriers to access, as well as those hindering students from earning their degrees.

14 Pennsylvania universities and 140 team members will work with CUE over the course of two years.
14 Pennsylvania universities and 140 team members will work with CUE over the course of two years.

In Pennsylvania there is a gap between the racial diversity of its high school graduates and that of its entering undergraduates. While around 14% of the state’s high school graduates in 2010 were African American, for example, African American students comprised only about 8% of the total enrollment at PASSHE institutions in the following year. As part of the new performance funding initiative implemented by the PASSHE Chancellor’s Office and Board of Governors the systems’ schools are collectively asked to improve outcomes for underrepresented minority groups by cutting in half the gaps that separate African American, Latino, and American Indians from their white and Asian American peers. Through these efforts, PASSHE aims to significantly improve equity in higher education access and completion by 2015.

Team leaders and institutional research staff received an orientation about the Equity Scorecard™ process in January 2012; and 140 team members from the fourteen universities came together in February to launch the work. From February to September they examined disaggregated student cohort data related to access (i.e., the numbers of first-time students who apply for admission, the numbers who are accepted, and the numbers who actually enroll) to identify equity gaps and investigate the data findings. With the problems identified, they’re beginning to assess a range of possible interventions and select a few for implementation. In September 2012 the teams again came together to launch the retention (progress towards a degree) perspective. Teams are now beginning to look at their retention data, after which they will conduct inquiry around the equity gaps they’ve identified.