Erase Equity Gaps
Colorado’s demographic profile is changing rapidly. These changes are visible on campuses throughout the state and are even more pronounced in the state’s K-12 system. Our colleges and universities are enrolling and graduating increasing numbers of students who come from low-income families and are the first in their family to attend college. Increasing proportions of enrolled students represent communities historically underserved by colleges and universities, particularly the Hispanic/Latino community.
In spite of this progress, many students are not being served well, or at all.
This master plan uses the term equity gap to refer to the gap between the current attainment level for a demographic group and our 66 percent attainment goal.
Colorado’s largest- and fastest-growing ethnic group, Hispanic/ Latino, has the lowest average educational attainment and the lowest college enrollment rate of any ethnic group in the state.
The gap between the educational attainment of the white majority and Hispanic minority is the second largest in the nation, behind only California.1 While the four-year high school graduation rate for white students in Colorado is 84 percent, for Hispanic students it is 70 percent. And whereas the postsecondary credential attainment rate for whites in Colorado currently is 64 percent, for Hispanics it is 29 percent. The past years have seen consistent increases in credentials awarded to Hispanic students, but those increases are a long way from keeping up with the overall growth of the Hispanic population or the needs of Colorado’s knowledge economy.
The story for African Americans in Colorado is even more sobering. While their 39 percent attainment rate currently is higher than that for Hispanics and has increased slightly since 2012, their 10-year completion rate has actually decreased, making the gap even more challenging to address.
Across the state, we see not only racial/ ethnic attainment gaps, but also attainment gaps for students from low-income families and those who are the first in their families to attend postsecondary education.
The CCHE and the Department of Higher Education have made erasing these equity gaps—including for our fast-growing Hispanic population—a top priority, and institutions have myriad student support programs in place to enroll and retain students from underserved backgrounds. In a 2014 initiative called Colorado Completes!, the commission highlighted student support programs at institutions across the state with demonstrated achievement in retaining and assisting minority, low-income and first-generation students to succeed. From first-year intensive coaching to peer advising to community-focused engagement of students, these efforts are showing success.
But the challenge still looms large. We must advance solutions that meet the scale of this problem. Erasing equity gaps is both challenging and essential.
The CCHE recognizes that success in meeting the statewide goal of increasing the college attainment rate to 66 percent hinges on improving all students’ access to, progress in and completion in colleges and universities in the state.