Southwest Ohio, northern Kentucky schools join to boost minority enrollment for higher education

Sep. 21—A rare grouping of area college leaders recently came together to announce a new, coordinated effort to reduce the "equity gap" keeping some minority students from attending local, higher learning institutions.

The collection of colleges and universities — spanning parts of southwest Ohio and northern Kentucky — is a new cooperative effort bolstered by a national push dubbed "Moon Shot For Equity" that will see the sharing of resources and ideas to close the divide, said participants at press conference last week in downtown Cincinnati.

It is a national initiative aiming to close equity gaps within regional cohorts of two and four-year colleges and universities by 2030, according to a statement released by area participating school officials.

The new program — designed and run by a Washington, D.C.-based education firm Education Advisory Board (EAB) — will see member schools "take significant and measurable steps to work together to help more students from historically underserved populations graduate from college."

"Eliminating equity gaps in education is one of the most important things we can accomplish in our region, state, and country," said Miami University President Gregory Crawford. "Miami University is honored to partner with other higher education institutions to make a commitment to providing equity-minded educational experiences, advancing student success, and serving as a model for other colleges and universities around the globe."

Miami's main campus in Oxford is joined by the school's regional campuses in Hamilton and Middletown along with a Learning Center in West Chester Twp.

Joining Miami as regional participants are Cincinnati State Community College — which has a downtown Middletown branch campus — Northern Kentucky University (NKU) and Gateway Community College, also in northern Kentucky — as well as the Ohio Department of Higher Education and the Kentucky Council for Postsecondary Education.

According to their joint statement: "Data show that barely half of all Black and Latinx students who enter college earn their undergraduate degree within six years compared with nearly 70 percent of White students."

"First-generation students and those from families with lower incomes also graduate college at significantly lower rates than students from more privileged backgrounds, regardless of race," said school officials who met at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center.

"Higher education institutions that welcome and graduate large numbers of first-generation, low-income students are engines of economic and social mobility," NKU President Ashish Vaidya said. "Our institutions are working together to keep the American dream of opportunity alive. We have to continue focusing on all these subpopulations so that their graduation rates continue to rise in preparation for a lifetime of achievement."

EAB, they said, will provide participating schools with research, technology, and advisory services.

During the first 100 days of the effort, the schools will build the necessary support system and infrastructure to start the work successfully, said officials.