SXU Partners with Illinois Equity in Attainment Initiative
Saint Xavier University (SXU) is proud to announce its commitment to the Partnership for College Completion as one of 24 colleges and universities across the state of Illinois dedicated to ending institutional inequities in college graduation rates by 2025 with a focus on low-income and first-generation students and students of color. The 24 colleges and universities, representing two-year and four-year public and private institutions, are the inaugural participants in the partnership's newly launched Illinois Equity in Attainment Initiative (ILEA). ILEA colleges and universities will pursue a range of institutional programs and policy change efforts to remove unnecessary hurdles to graduation.
"Saint Xavier University is proud to work with the Partnership for College Completion in the Illinois Equity in Attainment Initiative," said SXU President Laurie M. Joyner, Ph.D. "By working together, we can increase graduation rates and eliminate achievement gaps. It is inspiring to see so many Illinois universities taking up this important cause with us. SXU is honored to be a part of this crucial alliance to ensure the fulfillment of our Mercy mission and the success of our students."
The launch of ILEA comes amidst research identifying large and persistent gaps in college degree completion that fall along socio-economic and racial lines. At the same time, there is a continuing decline in enrollment at many of the state's largest public universities and community colleges. A common theme is higher education affordability, and the state's primary tuition support grant, the Monetary Award Program (MAP), has not been fully funded since 2002.
The participation of the 24 colleges is unprecedented. SXU and fellow ILEA schools will develop an equity plan that will include annual growth targets for low-income, first-generation African-American and Latino students. The partnership will issue annual reports on progress toward these goals. The colleges will work to identify obstacles that students face and develop programs and policies that break down cultural, navigational, financial and academic barriers to college graduation. The ILEA colleges will ensure the road to each degree path is clearly mapped out and communicated, guaranteeing that students can access courses when they need them to maintain momentum in pursuit of their degree.
"The college completion crisis that is both a national and state concern is compounded by a longstanding and growing affordability and access challenge in Illinois," said Kyle Westbrook, founding executive director of the partnership. "But, we have reason for optimism that access to higher education and degree completion may be within reach for all students. The commitment of these colleges and universities to ILEA is a major signal to other educators and to policymakers that we can no longer accept the lost human and economic potential that comes from unequal opportunity."
The non-profit partnership is the only organization in Illinois working with colleges and universities to promote practices, programs and systems-change to ensure that low-income, first generation students graduate from college. The partnership will use their resources to support ILEA schools through advocacy in the Illinois legislature and sharing data and best practices from colleges around the country that demonstrate how to eliminate longstanding institutional inequities in degree completion by race and income.
"As we look around the country, we know that focused leadership can overcome our most daunting challenges," said Westbrook. "I am confident that by working closely with colleges and universities, along with other diverse stakeholders, we will develop and deploy a comprehensive plan to address ongoing systemic forces that contribute to entrenched and unacceptably low college completion rates."
Learn more about how SXU plans to increase opportunities for low-income students by reading other articles in Advancing Our Mission.