Dear colleagues and friends,
We are only a few weeks into the new year and, despite the odds, we are feeling decidedly hopeful. Positively so. Our civic institutions, state, and country are taking action to turn back the divisive, unjust, and inhumane policies of these past few years and together—through leadership and partnership—we can help to advance the positive change needed for a better future.
At College Futures Foundation, we know that there is more to this moment than the here and now: that the inequitably concentrated pandemic suffering, deadly racial injustices, and white supremacist violence of the past twelve months were long in the making—and that the future will depend on what we do together now—collectively. Our foundation’s focus for that future is equity—specifically, a profoundly equitable system of public education that puts social mobility and economic prosperity within reach for the Black and brown, low-income, first-generation, and immigrant students who have so much to offer and too many obstacles to surmount. Our success as a society hangs in the balance.
We know that higher education is key to an inclusive society and a robust economy. For California’s diverse students, a college degree is a ticket to better paying jobs, better life outcomes, and fuller participation in civic life. Nobody should be denied entry to such a life; when that happens, everyone pays a price. We envision a future where California’s higher education community fully lives the principles of equity and inclusion, and yields a population of graduates as diverse and talented as our state, ready to tackle complex issues and build a better future for us all.
This is our vision, this is our commitment, and here are some of the ways College Futures Foundation is investing in the future of equity now:
Improving student experiences for racial equity
- The USC Race and Equity Center, founded and led by Dr. Shaun Harper, is conducting a two-year-long research, listening, and development process to identify ways to infuse racial equity into each pillar of the Guided Pathways framework that is reshaping student experiences for success across community colleges. Based on its research, the Center is also producing a series of tools and resources for centering racial equity in the community college experience. This work, supported by College Futures Foundation, helps advance our state’s response to the powerful call to action issued by Eloy Ortiz Oakley, Chancellor of California Community Colleges, in June, urging employees of the nation’s largest system of higher education to revamp and redouble efforts to dismantle systemic racism.
- Dual enrollment, which allows students to take college-level coursework while in high school and reduce their time and cost to a degree, has gained increasing public support in our state in recent years. College Futures Foundation has committed to incentivizing and partnering with those, like the Career Ladders Project, that are supporting the design of dual enrollment programs to ensure that the courses students take are credit-bearing, transferrable, and relevant to their postsecondary ambitions, and so that those who have historically not had access—including Black, Latinx, Indigenous, and other students underrepresented in higher education—are being served and supported. At its best, dual enrollment can and should be a powerful tool for equitable access that also puts students on an accelerated path to bachelor’s degree completion.
Supporting leadership for racial equity
- In order to advance lasting change, we must ensure that there are leaders—people shaping our systems of education and the agenda for reform—who are deeply committed to advancing equity in education and are themselves representative of our state’s diversity. College Futures Foundation is engaging with California-based college and university leaders and networks on this topic to inform our approach and investments in equity-focused leadership. We are also supporting innovators in this arena, such as #EquityAvengers Dr. Keith Curry and Dr. Pam Luster, two California community college presidents who are leading social media-based dialogue, learning, and practical changes around equity.
- As California works to recover from the pandemic-induced recession, business and public sector leaders are increasingly recognizing the connections between equity, education, and the economy. College Futures Foundation is supporting the California Higher Education Recovery with Equity Taskforce in its roadmap of recommended actions for state leaders to ensure California’s public postsecondary institutions stride toward a more equitable, prosperous future.
Leveraging student voices for racial equity
- To achieve equity in education, we must understand the first-hand experiences of students who are navigating a multitude of barriers to their learning and attainment, from high living costs to family commitments, from technological needs to threats to their mental and physical health. For this reason, College Futures Foundation is intentionally investing in those who are making sure their work is informed and enriched by diverse student voices, such as the student journalism supported by CalMatters and EdSource and student surveys and research led by The Education Trust—West (on college student experiences amid the pandemic) and the California Student Aid Commission (the Student Expenses and Resources Survey and follow-on research briefs on housing and credit card debt).
Just as the problems of the past have led to this difficult moment for California and our country, so can the choices we make in the present set a course for a better, more equitable and prosperous future.
Vigilance, persistence, and energy are required to reimagine and design our systems to truly serve our students and communities, rather than burdening and penalizing the most vulnerable.
In response to this moment, we are committing well over $5 million in grants to racial equity efforts. We feel lucky every day to be committed to and investing in the change we want to see.
We deeply appreciate the many grantee partners, fellow funders, and communities who share this journey and commitment to doing better and doing more on the vital issue of equity. Thanks to you, there will be more to this moment than hardship and challenge—there will be new hope that young people, no matter their race, income, or zip code, can reach their potential and fulfill our shared promise through education.
President & CEO
College Futures Foundation
Chief Program and Strategy Officer
College Futures Foundation