Watch Now: Illinois Seeks Public College Equity Plans | local education


NORMAL — Illinois State University is pleased to see recent legislation that seeks to ensure equity at the state’s public higher education institutions, said the chief diversity and education officer. inclusion of the university.

“We really welcome this plan and many of the elements that we are already implementing,” said Doris Houston, Acting Assistant to the President for Diversity and Inclusion.

Governor JB Pritzker signed House Bill 5464 – the omnibus higher education bill – on June 7. The legislation requires public universities and community colleges in Illinois to create equity plans to address disparities for historically underrepresented groups, including students of color, mature students, students from rural areas, women and students with disabilities.

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The Illinois Council on Higher Education and the Illinois Community College Board will manage the rollout of the plans.

The IBHE will help analyze the current situation of schools and then develop a framework that schools can work on to create their own plans, said the agency’s executive director, Ginger Ostro.

“There is no one-size-fits-all solution,” she said.

Illinois State University Progress

One area in which the state of Illinois will welcome the support and guidance of the IBHE is in establishing benchmarks to measure improvement, Houston said. The benchmarks will give the school tentative goals, but it can be difficult to decide where to set them.






Houston


In other areas, she said, the university is well positioned as it implements equity programs. The university collected data on topics such as retention rates and data analysis to examine specific colleges, departments and even classes that appear to be problematic, Houston said.

Part of that process includes a five-year review of ISU’s 2017 Campus Climate Task Force plan, which Houston presented to the Academic Senate. The review highlighted improvements in the growing diversity of the student population and more support for students and employees from historically underrepresented backgrounds. But he also noted that there was still work to be done, particularly on graduation rates and recruiting faculty and staff from underrepresented backgrounds.

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Houston hopes to hold another campus climate survey, which was scheduled for 2020 but was delayed due to the pandemic.

The bill was passed with the support of the IBHE and will help the state’s public universities and colleges move toward the goals outlined in that agency’s latest strategic plan, Ostro said.

“Key in this plan, there are three objectives. The first is to close equity gaps for students who have historically been left behind,” she said.







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ostro


Equity plans will be unique to each school, Ostro said. One school’s challenges and solutions may not apply to another.

“I think this is an opportunity to build on what the schools have done on their own,” Ostro said.

Houston said the statewide strategic plan provides a model for schools to follow, while adding their own unique needs and challenges. The university will also review equity plans developed by the 25 members of the Illinois Equity in Attainment Initiative.

“There really is a structure and a plan for the equity plan,” she said.

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Under HB5464, community colleges will also be required to develop equity plans.

Heartland College is waiting for the Illinois Community College Board to review existing plans at public community colleges in the state, spokesman Steve Fast said. The school does not expect to have more details from the ICCB until the fall.

Heartland is rolling out some of its equity plans at scale, including implementing its Workforce Equity Initiative grant that helps historically marginalized groups pay for Heartland programs and associated costs.

The state’s fiscal year 2023 budget represents a significant investment in equity and financial aid for higher education students, Ostro said. This includes an increase of more than $120 million in funding for the Monetary Scholarship Program, which provides scholarships for Illinois students to attend college.







Pritzker Mug

Pritzker


Two other bills signed by Pritzker earlier this month are related to these goals. Bill 4201 requires public universities and community colleges across the state to designate a staff member as a “benefits navigator” to help students apply for federal, state, and local aid programs for which they are eligible. Senate Bill 3991 amends the Illinois Higher Education Savings Program to allow the state treasurer to increase deposits for children from financially insecure backgrounds.

The Illinois Higher Education Savings Program will provide an initial $50 deposit into a 529 college savings account for every child born in the state beginning January 1, 2023. Similar savings funds tripled the number of children going to university. and a four-fold increase in the number of children graduating from college, the governor’s office said.

Ostro said investments included in the budget and recent legislation will help grow the state’s economy.

“A central idea here that we keep coming back to is that educational equity and Illinois’ economic growth are inseparable,” Ostro said.

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