Established in 1999, the mission of the Center for Urban Education is to lead socially conscious research and develop tools for institutions of higher education to produce equity in student outcomes.

Located in the University of Southern California’s Rossier School of Education, CUE is committed to closing racial-ethnic equity gaps and improving student outcomes in higher education.

Using data, process and benchmarking tools as well as structured inquiry activities embodied in what is called the Equity Scorecard™, CUE helps two- and four-year colleges and state higher education systems identify problems, develop interventions and implement equity goals to increase retention, transfer and graduation rates for historically underrepresented racial-ethnic groups.

Since its founding, more than ninety two-year and four-year colleges and universities in ten states have partnered with CUE to use the Equity Scorecard™ and learn about the concept of “equity-mindedness” that is the foundation for institutional responsibility. Our work is made possible with the financial support of many foundations.

The First Decade

CUE Staff circa 2005
CUE Staff circa 2005

In 1999, Dr. Estela Mara Bensimon, a professor of higher education, launched CUE with $900,000 in seed money from the USC Provost’s Office. CUE was formed as part of the university’s Urban Initiative, which sought to incentivize collaboration in research and teaching.

Dr. Bensimon’s idea was based on her observation that the civil rights victories which expanded access to higher education – although historic and significant – still needed to be translated into equitable educational outcomes for African-American and Latino students.

Dr. Bensimon called upon educators and policymakers to “move beyond talking about diversity in terms of who goes to college so we can have the harder, more substantive and urgent conversation about who finishes.”

CUE Staff circa 2009
CUE Staff circa 2009

The Center’s flagship effort was called the “diversity scorecard,” at that time. It was launched with 14 California colleges which analyzed their performance data to support evidence-based decisions to improve academic outcomes for African-Americans, Latinos, and other racially minoritized groups. The diversity scorecard evolved into what is now called the Equity Scorecard™. Over the first decade, CUE’s Equity Scorecard™ process has been used in many of our nation’s colleges and universities.

L-R: CUE’s co-directors Dr. Bensimon and Dr. Dowd
L-R: CUE Director Dr. Bensimon and Senior Research Associate Dr. Dowd

In 2008 Dr. Alicia C. Dowd, at the time an associate professor in the Rossier School of Education, became CUE’s Co-Director after working on a number of groundbreaking projects. Since that time, the Center has achieved various milestones in its mission to promote equity: achieving impact through data-based analysis of the University of Wisconsin System campuses, briefing Congress on how federal funding can be used effectively to increase Latino participation in STEM fields, and leading collaborative discourse on ways to reach President Obama’s college completion goals. In 2016 Dr. Dowd became a Professor of Education (HIED) and Senior Scientist in the Center for the Study of Higher Education at Pennsylvania State University. She continues as Senior Research Associate for the Center for Urban Education.

“It’s so gratifying to hear equity being included in not only research and discourse within California, but in national initiatives and large scale research projects which hold significant promise to make a difference.” – Dr. Estela Mara Bensimon