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October 30, 2019

Summit explores solutions to close equity gaps in Missouri higher education

New report guides equity discussion among more than 250 thought leaders

(COLUMIBA, MO)—The Missouri Department of Higher Education & Workforce Development hosted an Equity in Missouri Higher Education Summit on Wednesday, Oct. 30, in Columbia, Missouri. The department released a new Equity in Missouri Higher Education Report that outlines where Missouri currently stands in enrollment, graduation, access, and progress based on race, age, sex, income level, and geography.

Keynote speaker Wil Del Pilar, Ph.D., Vice President of Higher Education Policy, The Education Trust, challenged attendees to think about policies and practices that could improve postsecondary access for low-income and underrepresented students.

A pre-conference equity hack-a-thon brought together thought leaders from business and industry, education, and organizations to dive into the key issues surrounding equity and provide ideas for moving the needle in Missouri. Results from the hack-a-thon were shared during a summit panel discussion.

“A student’s destiny should not be determined by their zip code. We can’t have opportunities for some students and not others,” said Alan Byrd, Vice Provost of Enrollment Management, University of Missouri-St. Louis, and Co-Chair of St. Louis Graduates.

Breakout sessions and conversations also included using data to improve retention and graduation rates, helping justice-involved individuals reintegrate into the workforce, improving outcomes for rural students, high impact practices to help students succeed, opening the doors for inclusivity for students with intellectual or developmental disabilities, and breaking down barriers to access for immigrant students.

“As we consider states across the country having conversations around attainment goals and workforce development needs, I think any conversation that doesn’t include this whole notion of equity is coming from a place of incompleteness,” said Denise Pearson, Vice President of Academic Affairs and Equity Initiatives at the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association. “As a nation if we want to be competitive in this global economy, we’re going to have to make sure we’re leveraging the assets of all of our citizens, and that’s what a focus on equity allows us to do."

Read the full report at https://dhewd.mo.gov/documents/2019EquityReport.pdf.

About the Missouri Department of Higher Education & Workforce Development: The department works to empower Missourians with the skills and education needed for success. More information about MDHEWD can be found at https://dhewd.mo.gov or on Facebook and Twitter @MoDHEWD.