The DHE will develop a statewide strategic plan focused on equity, to be reflected in our policies, programs, and initiatives. The expectation is that, by doing so, the Massachusetts system of public higher education will enhance economic and social mobility for all citizens, but particularly for those that have historically been underserved and underrepresented, especially students of color, throughout all levels of education.
Nicole Johnson, Ed.D
Director of Educational Equity & Justice Office of the Commissioner
Chief of Staff
Assistant Commissioner for Academic Policy and Student Success
2019 – Present
Statewide Strategic Plan for Racial Equity
BHE Motion on Vision Statement
Commissioner's Working Paper
Reporting System (PMRS)
Driving Equitable Access in Higher Education (Ed Note)
Community Colleges, State Universities, and University of Massachusetts System
Producing equitable outcomes while increasing overall degree attainment is the top policy and performance priority for the Board and Department of Higher Education, and we have a plan of action to dismantle barriers and work toward ensuring a just educational experience within which students will thrive.
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.
During the September 2018 Board of Higher Education (BHE) retreat, Commissioner Santiago and Chair Gabrieli proposed to members this new direction for public higher education that would reaffirm the state’s commitment to maintaining high levels of educational attainment among the adult population while emphasizing equitable postsecondary outcomes for minoritized students. In partnership with Massachusetts public higher education institutions, the Board and Department of Higher Education (DHE) will develop a 10-year statewide strategic plan focused on equity. The expectation is that, by focusing on equity in our policies, programs, and initiatives, the Massachusetts system of public higher education will enhance economic and social mobility for all citizens, particularly students of color, throughout all levels of education.
Our work will focus on assessing current and prospective higher education policy using an equity lens. The success of this initiative requires improving student outcomes and movement in the right direction would be illustrated by overall progress for students in general, accompanied by even more rapid and substantial improvements for minoritized students. Equity is more than simply creating a level playing field; it requires a concerted and intentional effort to remove barriers and obstacles that hinder the success of students that heretofore did not have these advantages. Massachusetts will not be able to maintain its position as the most educated state in the country unless we address the systemic inequities that exist within our system public of higher education. An enhanced focus on increased attainment with an emphasis on equity would not only help Massachusetts remain a global competitor in industries such as education, medicine and technology, but more importantly, it would fulfill the promise of economic and social mobility that many students, especially students of color, seek when entering into postsecondary.
At its December 11, 2018 meeting, the BHE adopted the following Vision Statement to guide the work of developing a new statewide strategic plan for public higher education.
In order to meet the two goals in the vision statement, the Department will need to partner with institutions, as most of the work needed to promote equity and increase attainment occurs at the campus level. As we know, we will not be able to meet goals around educational attainment if we do not center our work on ensuring equitable outcomes for all students. Critical to the viability and sustainability of a statewide strategic plan for Massachusetts public higher education will be the integration of system goals at the campus level, specifically within institutional strategic plans. This means the Department will also need to examine its existing policies and initiatives to determine how to better align and promote the statewide equity imperative.
As a recently named Lumina Foundation Talent, Innovation, and Equity (TIE) partner state, The Board of Higher Education adopted the following goals on May 5, 2020 in furtherance of the Equity Agenda.
After completing a four-day Equity Institute, hosted by the University of Southern California’s Race and Equity Center, Department staff developed racial equity principles to guide the advancement of the Equity Agenda. The principles are intended to assist in the cultural transformation of the Department, as well as ground the Equity Agenda in equity-minded policy change.
In furtherance of the Equity Agenda, to achieve racial equity, we must be successful in these integrated strategies. With support from the Lumina Foundation, the Department will engage in the following activities: