Few Minnesotans of color attain a post-secondary degree: How to help build equity

By Carlos Mariani Rosa, Executive Director

Do you know about the Minnesota 70 Percent Attainment Goal? This state initiative, passed into law in 2015, calls for increasing the percentage of Minnesotans age 25 to 44 who have attained a postsecondary certificate or degree to 70 percent by 2025. MnEEP informed the legislation and recognized the work of Sen. Terri Bonoff to pass the law.

The purpose of the statute is to support our state’s economic and civic success by ensuring that our young people are pursuing post-secondary opportunities, be they vocational certificates or advanced degrees.

But the law also is “open-eyed” about the demographic challenges our state faces, and charges the Minnesota Office of Higher Education to use aggressive benchmarks to report progress in degree attainment for all race and ethnicity groups.

According to data collected by Minnesota Office of Higher Education, Minnesota has an uphill battle to close the gap existing in educational attainment by race and ethnicity. Bottom line? Few Minnesotans of color attain a degree.

  • Students of color graduate from high school within four years at a rate lower than White students.
  • Students of color enroll in college at a rate lower than White graduates.
  • Students of color are concentrated at two-year institutions.
  • Students of color and non-English speakers enroll in developmental education at higher rates.
  • Students of color graduated from college at lower rates.

At MnEEP, we know educational achievement is the result of a multi-year pathway. Success can be influenced, but is never determined by a single experience on that road. This is especially true for students who face challenges in which our educational delivery systems are not designed to remedy, especially the pernicious effects of lasting racism in our society.

By racially disaggregating student outcomes— in this case of enrollment, retention, and graduation rates—we can better understand the various factors that conspire to work against students of color and Native students. That the State itself is required to collect and analyze data tied to those factors is a powerful way to advance equity, for in our government lies both the legal authority and the common wealth to support just and meaningful outcomes for communities historically and persistently denied opportunity to succeed.

Of course, none of that replaces the power of self-action and desire. An effective social compact always combines self-agency with collective action, the efforts of the person with the ability of the community to structure a way for the person to achieve.

Through MnEEP’s Big Bold Goal #5 – College Access and Success, we seek to inform our state’s schools and colleges to be acutely aware of institutional racism as we also inform our various racial-ethnic communities to be acutely aware of social opportunities that emerge as our institutions evolve—and how to continue being their own best advocates.

Please visit the MnOHE website to see the data dashboards they’ve developed to make the 70 % Attainment Goal a powerful opportunity to drive both the state’s and communities of color/Native communities knowledge of how well we are doing and what we can do differently to ensure equitable student post-secondary success.