US Senator Schatz Reintroduces College Equity Act
US Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) reintroduced the College Equity Act, a bill that would give colleges and universities funding to address disparities in higher education recruitment, admissions and support.
“There are schools where veterans, people of color, and people with disabilities are able to thrive, and others where they struggle,” Sen. Schatz said. “The difference often comes down to schools knowing the challenges that exist for students and doing something to help. This bill provides federal funding so that the doors of every college and university are open to qualified students from all walks of life – and that these schools can offer the resources students need to graduate on time and make a good living for themselves.”
Schatz stated his case for the bill: Higher education promises economic mobility for all Americans, but outcomes for today’s college students are far from equal. Severe racial inequalities persist across measures from acceptance, enrollment and completion rates to post-graduation salaries and student loan debt. More than half of college students with disabilities do not graduate within eight years. And only half of US students at four-year universities and colleges who received Pell Grants in 2011 graduated within six years.
The College Equity Act takes three steps toward addressing these kinds of achievement gaps:
- Provides funding for colleges and universities to examine how institutional practices like admissions policies, financial aid processes, access to campus support services, and faculty diversity contribute to gaps in student outcomes by race and ethnicity, gender, income, ability, transfer status, military and veteran status, and other lines of identity.
- Creates grants for institutions that have completed these audits to develop and execute improvement plans to address the findings.
- Increases accountability by sharing the findings of audits with higher education accrediting agencies, which can then provide technical assistance and share best practices across institutions.
Individual schools and systems have shown success in closing these achievement gaps. San Diego State University has bucked trends by graduating 76% of all student veterans, nearly twice the national average graduation rate, exemplifying the positive impacts of targeted resources and customized support.
With more than 50 percent of students receiving Pell Grants and a student body of 60 percent people of color, Georgia State University recently increased its graduation rate by more than 40 percentage points by offering advising, mentoring and tutoring services; providing emergency grants to support low-income students; and keeping tabs on students who may be at-risk of dropping out.
The College Equity Act is cosponsored by US Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN).
The legislation is supported by Center for American Progress, Institute for Higher Education Policy, New America, UnidosUS, Center for Law and Social Policy, and Third Way.
The full text of the bill is available here.