Several Virginia colleges and universities will share a large grant to help more students of color receive their degrees and have better outcomes.
The move follows amplified calls in the U.S. to end systemic racism in several areas, including higher education.
Funding from the Lumina Foundation of $725,000 will be divvied up by two higher-ed bodies and six schools, including Virginia Commonwealth, George Mason, and Patrick Henry Community College.
Haley Glover, strategy director for state action and equity for the Foundation, said they chose Virginia because of state-level efforts to address barriers that consistently have prevented Black and Hispanic students from advancing their academic careers.
“Students of color are more likely to run into institutional barriers, including lack of financial aid, lack of culturally competent curriculum and faculty leadership,” Glover explained.
One example of how the money will be used is the creation of a campus climate assessment at George Mason University.
Glover noted it will further identify barriers to college completion, while providing a baseline assessment to measure future growth.
By 2024, Gov. Ralph Northam would like the state to boost attainment for college students of color by 5 percent.
A 2018 analysis by the Education Trust gave Virginia a “B” grade for degree attainment for Black adults.
State officials and advocates say there’s always room for growth, and Glover added the collaborations can help bridge gaps that still exist.
“When the state and institutions can work together to solve problems, to align priorities, to take action, we really hope and think that students will be better served,” Glover concluded.
The foundation awarded a separate grant to Virginia in 2019. That funding, totaling $500,000, also went toward helping the state reach the equity goals outlined by the governor’s office.
(Mike Moen, Virginia News Connection)