Katy Abel
MA Dept. of Higher Education

Tracy Chen
Director of Media Strategy
Lumina Foundation
(317) 670-0521

For Immediate Release
September 10, 2020

Massachusetts Awarded $1.2 Million by Lumina Foundation to Pursue Equity, Racial Justice Goals for Public Higher Education System

Department of Higher Education, Six Campuses Share Grants and Set Goal to Change Programs and Policies, Improve Campus Experience and Outcomes for Black and Latinx Students

Boston, MA – September 10, 2020 – The Massachusetts Department of Higher Education has been awarded $1.2 million in grant funding by Lumina Foundation through its Talent, Innovation, Equity (TIE) initiative grant and its Equity Institution grant to dismantle systemic barriers to student success and degree attainment, particularly for Black and Latinx students. The Commonwealth is only the fifth state to receive Lumina’s Talent, Innovation, Equity (TIE) grant.

Lumina’s support through the $500,000 TIE grant and simultaneously awarded $700,000 in Equity Institution grants to six Massachusetts public community colleges and universities, as well as the Boston Foundation, will support the equity vision adopted by the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education (BHE) in December 2018. The Massachusetts Board became the first state higher education authority in the U.S. to make equity the top statewide policy and performance objective for a public system of higher education system. Last May, the Board endorsed a series of specific performance targets, including an overall college attainment goal of 70 percent for the state and a specific goal that 43 percent of African American and 32 percent of Latinx Massachusetts residents ages 25 to 64 will hold an associate degree or higher by 2024. 

“The Baker-Polito Administration is focused on enhancing economic and social mobility for all Massachusetts residents and – particularly those who have been historically underserved and underrepresented on college and university campuses,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “While Massachusetts leads the nation in quality education, inequities in access and opportunity in higher education exist for students of color, and our administration is committed to continued leadership in this space through ongoing investment in equity to ensure that students receive the same resources and support to facilitate success in the classroom and beyond.”

Equity First: Achieving Racial Justice in Higher Education

On September 10, 2020, the DHE and Lumina Foundation announced a comprehensive new plan to achieve racial equity for students attending Massachusetts public colleges and universities.

“It’s great to see the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education announce plans to take thoughtful steps toward developing and implementing policies to help eliminate racial disparities in our higher education system," said Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, who participated in today’s grant announcement via webinar. "By developing a statewide strategic plan focused on equity, Massachusetts will better serve students of color throughout all levels of education."

“Access to quality higher education can help set students up for a lifetime of success, but systemic inequities in our higher education system prevent far too many Black and brown students from achieving their full potential,” said Massachusetts Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley, who joined Senator Warren at today’s announcement. “It’s critical that our campuses reflect the diversity of our communities, and that our colleges and universities are equipped with the resources, data, and cultural competency to support students of every background. This funding will help Massachusetts identify and address racial inequities and barriers to access and completion across our higher education landscape. We can no longer treat a higher education as a privilege and must begin to treat it as the fundamental civil right that it is.”

“In Massachusetts, while more than 57 percent of adults hold an associate degree or higher, the gaps in educational achievement and attainment and their impact on economic opportunity for many residents remain,” said Education Secretary James Peyer. “These unjust inequities have only been exacerbated by the retreat into remote learning since March, and we are grateful for the support of the Lumina Foundation as we continue to seek to close these gaps.”

“COVID-19 has exposed inequities across our state, and it has been made clear that we in higher education must look in the mirror and be willing to change the way we do business,” said Carlos E. Santiago, Massachusetts Commissioner of Higher Education. “With Lumina’s support, the Department and the Commonwealth will be able to accelerate our work to ensure that students of color from underserved communities feel welcome on campus and have the resources they need to complete their degrees and enter the workforce in a timely fashion.”

"The Massachusetts Board of Higher Education is ‘all in’ to ensure that our Commonwealth, fairly considered the leading place in the world for excellence in higher education, also leads on ensuring equity of opportunity and success for all of our own students, especially those who have historically been underserved,” said Chris Gabrieli, Chair of the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education.  “We must prioritize the changes needed to achieve that."

“Lumina Foundation is thrilled to support efforts to improve outcomes for Black, Hispanic and Native American learners in Massachusetts,” said Lumina Senior Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer Danette Howard, PhD. “We have been impressed and energized by the commitment to racial equity demonstrated at all levels of the Commonwealth. We believe the work ahead will catalyze structural improvements for equity within Massachusetts institutions, communities and throughout the state.”

Lumina Foundation funding will enable the Department of Higher Education to:

In addition to the TIE Partnership Grant, six college and university campuses, as well as The Boston Foundation, are recipients of Lumina’s Equity Institution grants:

Bridgewater State University will scale its data-informed educational equity efforts to address disparities experienced by students of color through: the BSU Summer Bears bridge program which supports the retention of incoming students with lower high school GPAs through curricular and co-curricular programming; a Student Navigator who will offer care coordination and support to students identified through predictive analytics as those who would benefit from wrap-around campus student success support. The grant will also support the work of the Leading for Change Racial Equity and Justice Institute, a consortium of 25 campuses in the region committed to data-informed educational equity work, which is convened and coordinated by Bridgewater State University. 

Bunker Hill Community College will build on the work of the Center for Equity and Cultural Wealth, applying its equity framework to redesign its curriculum and student academic experience in health care and STEM programs, part of an intentional strategy of culturally-responsive programming and equity minded practice.

Greenfield Community College will leverage its long-standing asset-based community development approach to diversity and inclusion as it launches a new Mountain Scholars Program, focused on recruiting students of color from regional high schools and GCC’s applicant pool. Each scholar will have a specialized advisor identified for strong cultural competency, and the program will be complemented with focused faculty professional development as well strengthened data utilization efforts.

Holyoke Community College will form and train an "equity team" of data-informed and equity-minded faculty and staff who will move the college forward in its longer-term goals and outcomes for learners of color, which are central to HCC's strategic plan. In addition, HCC will build on the success of its existing mentoring and alumni relations programs to build a mentoring network for alumni and students of color.

The Massachusetts College of Art and Design will institute a Rising Sophomore program to raise college completion rates of Black and Latinx students, arming them with software, technical skills, and other tools to give them a strong foundation in their major.

The University of Massachusetts at Boston will use Lumina support for a “RESPOND” peer coaching initiative to assist students disparately impacted by the pandemic and the shift to remote learning. A second project, Professional Apprenticeship and Career Education (PACE), will aim to reduce persistence, graduation, and career opportunity disparities through professional, on-campus paid apprenticeships, and will also include a focused equity analysis of on campus employment.

The Boston Foundation will participate in this work through Success Boston - Boston's citywide college completion initiative, which is also a Lumina Foundation Talent Hub. Success Boston has successfully implemented equity-based strategies for improving postsecondary success, including through its transition coaching work. Through this grant, Success Boston will share resources and lessons learned with grant partners, expanding beyond Metro Boston.

Learn more about the Department of Higher Education’s Equity Agenda.

Lumina Foundation is an independent, private foundation in Indianapolis that is committed to making opportunities for learning beyond high school available to all. The foundation envisions a system that is easy to navigate, delivers fair results, and meets the nation’s need for talent through a broad range of credentials. Lumina’s goal is to prepare people for informed citizenship and for success in a global economy.


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