In collaboration with over 7,000 stakeholders across the Commonwealth, the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education released the Strategic Plan for Racial Equity 2022-2033 (“The Plan”) as part of the Equity Agenda adopted by the Board of Higher Education in 2018. The Plan sets forth a roadmap for the Board of Higher Education, the Department of Higher Education, and institutions to work together to transform the Commonwealth’s public higher education to focus on racial equity and eliminate racial disparities for Students of Color across the system.
“The Massachusetts Board of Higher Education was pleased to vote to receive the plans developed by the DHE, its consultants and its process of stakeholder engagement. The Board endorses the goals and objectives and looks forward to the work ahead for the Department to work with campuses on their specific plans, to set overall quantitative goals for this work and to consider significant specific policy changes to bring forward to the Board in priority order that can spur on our overall Equity Agenda,” said BHE Chair Chris Gabrieli.
“A more complete democracy requires racial reconciliation and, by providing true educational opportunities to students historically denied them, we will be closer to that goal. Only an educated, civically engaged, and equity-minded citizenry will create a society that can live up to democracy's ideals. That is precisely what this document aspires to do,” said DHE Commissioner Carlos Santiago.
The impetus behind the Plan is clear: data show that for generations the system has failed its Students of Color. The system has produced large disparities over time in admission, enrollment, retention, and graduation rates when comparing averages for Students of Color with the averages of all students. As such, the Plan’s vision is bold: a system of student-ready, race conscious public colleges and universities that are equitable and racially just, embrace the critical assets of Students of Color, and prepare Students of Color for success. The system aims to achieve this vision by continuing to transform programs, policies, pedagogies, and practices to be rooted in racial equity and responsive to the goals and needs of Students of Color.
The Plan outlines goals pertaining to Students of Color’s journey within the public higher education system that will be achieved through the implementation of five key strategies. Each strategy includes two to three priorities and associated actions, owners, timelines, and milestones and metrics for tracking progress. The Plan will be reviewed and updated every two years based on progress against the goals and metrics to ensure relevance to the evolving needs of the system’s Students of Color.
The Commonwealth’s public higher education institutions vary in their progress to date in addressing racial equity issues; the Plan is meant to support all of them as they continue the work that they are doing to achieve racial equity. To support accountability for the implementation of the Strategic Plan for Racial Equity, the BHE and DHE will measure and track progress on all of the Plan’s goals and strategies through the Performance Measurement Reporting System and establish other accountability mechanisms so that institutions continue to make progress on the goals. Institutions are also asked to establish their own accountability mechanisms so that the entire system can work cohesively towards the elimination of racial disparities.
“The Strategic Plan for Racial Equity is an important next step in the Department of Higher Education's responsibility to racial equity and justice. Our colleges and universities have been working on addressing racial inequities to remove systemic barriers to student success for many years, and this plan outlines the needed collaboration, resources, and support to elevate our work at the institutional and state levels and fundamentally dismantle the policies, procedures, and practices that impede progress. It also shows a clear commitment from the state of Massachusetts, and our public higher education institutions that our Students of Color are a priority,” said Holyoke Community College President Christina Royal.
The Strategic Plan for Racial Equity is a product of a broad and continuous stakeholder engagement process. A Strategic Plan Steering Committee consisting of 25 members representing higher education and industry leaders guided the work through strategic planning workshops and review sessions. Additionally, the DHE hosted review sessions to garner feedback on draft versions of the Plan with the BHE and 145 Institution presidents, administrators, faculty, staff, and students. The Plan is also influenced by an “Environmental Scan” of system-wide and institution-level data, a system-wide survey of institutions stakeholders, and the New Undergraduate Experience (NUE) Report which brought together a group of more than 60 diverse higher education practitioners and leaders from across the Commonwealth to clearly express Massachusetts education leaders’ and students’ collective vision for the cultural, curricular, pedagogical, and structural changes for the public higher education transformation needed to better serve Students of Color.
“In education, there's a golden triangle of quantity, quality, and equity. You cannot ignore one while strengthening the others. We recognize that individual students are not responsible for the unequal outcomes of groups that have historically experienced discrimination and marginalization. This Plan is about applying justice and common sense to build the infrastructure, all students, but particularly students of color, need to thrive,” said Steering Committee member Jorgo Gushi.
Achieving the goals outlined in the Plan will ensure that the Commonwealth’s higher education system remains competitive and meets the demands of the economy, workforce, and Massachusetts democratic institutions. More broadly, a successful Strategic Plan for Racial Equity will ensure that Massachusetts can truly claim its title as the “education state.”