Closing Racial Equity Gaps

The US along with several foundations is committed to the creation of an equitable, universal postsecondary learning system to meet the nation’s needs for talent and offer all Americans the chance for a better life through increased attainment.


Many states have responded to the call for increased and more equitable degree attainment by setting their own goals and reporting on their progress. But setting goals and monitoring progress, while necessary, are not sufficient to achieve racial equity in attainment. Based on CUE’s work with Lumina’s state policy labs and our current engagement with MN, CA, and CO, we have observed five obstacles that stand in the way of racial equity at the system level:

  • Not knowing how to talk about race, not knowing how to make racial equity operational, and not understanding that racial inequity is a product of racialized structures.
  • Not setting goals by race and ethnicity, not establishing racial equity indicators, and not reporting racial equity outcomes routinely.
  • Not having a strategy to engage institutions in the adoption of racial equity benchmarks and a plan of institutional transformation.
  • Not having a set of racial equity best practices to implement systemically.
  • Not having the know-how and procedures to assess the ways in which policies, practices, and initiatives undermine racial equity.

To address these obstacles CUE has created tools that introduce system and institutional leaders to five essential equity practices:

  1. Providing system leaders with the tools to set specific goals by race and ethnicity (e.g., increasing the rate of African American community college transfers from 20% to 40%).
  2. Providing system leaders with the knowledge to view racial inequity as a structural problem (rather than a cultural problem attributed to minoritized populations) and the tools to dismantle structural barriers.
  3. Providing system leaders with the Percentage Point Gap system to calculate equity gaps and the number of additional students by race and ethnicity that need to complete specific attainment benchmarks. (Note: CUE’s PP-Gap system has been adopted by the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office).
  4. Providing system leaders with an equity assessment of their current policies and initiatives and recommendations to embed racial equity. For example, incorporating a racial equity focus in developmental education reforms.
  5. Providing system leaders with the strategies and tools to mobilize institutional stakeholders around racial equity in attainment.