Lumina Foundation grant to help close gaps in educational attainment
A $500,000 educational equity grant by Indianapolis-based Lumina Foundation will help the Commonwealth of Virginia increase educational achievement for students of color by 5 percentage points over the next four years. Virginia is focusing on students who have traditionally been left behind, as it works toward its goal of being the best-educated state by 2030.
Gov. Ralph Northam announced the Commonwealth’s selection today during an event held at the Darden College of Education and Professional Studies at Old Dominion University. Virginia joins Colorado, Oregon, and Tennessee in receiving the grant to help eliminate educational disparities between the overall population and their African-American, Hispanic/Latinx, and Native American residents. The foundation aims to have 60 percent of Americans earn a credential beyond high school by 2025.
“As leaders, we have the responsibility to address the systemic racism that holds people back,” said Northam. “It’s time to take action to right the wrongs that began in Virginia 400 years ago, and this legacy continues in the form of lower educational achievement rates among students of color. This initiative with Lumina Foundation is just one way we are making tangible and measurable progress for those who are most underserved in higher education. We are grateful for the investment in Virginia. And while we know that a 5-percentage point increase is no easy task, we are up to the challenge.”
Lumina Foundation established the Talent, Innovation, and Equity (TIE) Partnership to provide an array of funding, research, and related support to states. Virginia will use the grant to pursue improvements in four critical areas: leadership culture and values; equity policy and initiatives; communications and outreach; and programming to improve educational attainment.
“We met personally with Governor Northam and his team, and we appreciated his sincerity and commitment to advancing inclusive excellence and achieving racial equity,” said Danette Howard, Senior Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer at Lumina Foundation. “At Lumina, we view Virginia’s commitment to addressing racial disparities as an important step in the governor’s pledge to focus the remainder of his term on addressing long-standing injustices.”
“This work is a #DiversityWin for the Commonwealth of Virginia that will dovetail into our long-term plan for inclusive excellence at all of our institutions of higher education,” said Dr. Janice Underwood, Virginia’s first Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer. “In partnership with the State Council of Higher Education, our plan is to equip our higher education leaders with the tools necessary to analyze their data and create individualized equity agendas to position their campus cultures as genuinely affirming to students who have historically been marginalized.”
To meet Lumina’s goal, states must focus on students who have been left behind. The TIE partnership is important because nationally fewer than one-third of Native Americans, Latinos, and African-Americans have earned credentials beyond a high school diploma. Lumina’s Stronger Nation digital visualization tool further highlights these unequal outcomes, including the racial and ethnic disparities in Virginia.
“Virginia has a longstanding relationship with Lumina, and we look forward to continued work in support of our shared goals through this partnership,” said Chief Workforce Development Advisor Megan Healy. “We are focused on increasing the number of Virginians with postsecondary degrees and credentials, especially those who have been traditionally underrepresented, and this grant will bolster our efforts by helping ensure that opportunities to participate in our workforce are equitable and accessible to everyone.”
Virginia, Colorado, Oregon, and Tennessee are among 43 states that have set clear goals for better educating residents and Lumina highlights the network’s efforts as part of its Strategy Labs outreach to policymakers.
“Virginia’s goal is to be the best-educated state in the country by 2030, with more than 70 percent of its working-age residents having a college degree or other credential of value beyond high school,” said Peter Blake, Director of the State Council of Higher Education. “To be successful, we know our efforts must focus on equity from the outset.”
The State Council of Higher Education for Virginia will be administering the TIE grant in collaboration with the Office of the Secretary of Education, the Office of the Governor’s Chief Workforce Advisor, and the Commonwealth’s Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.
Lumina expects to award grants to as many as six states. The Foundation is looking for states that are working to create policy environments conducive to increasing attainment, particularly using options from Lumina’s state policy agenda. Lumina seeks states whose leaders commit publicly to addressing racial disparities, because meeting the 60 percent goal will require a strong focus on helping more students of color finish their programs and earn degrees.
Also, states must focus on students from low-income families, people who are the first in their families to attend college, adults with no recognized learning beyond high school, and adults who stepped away from college for financial, family, or other reasons and need to finish degrees.