Beyond Statements of Support: Reforming Education and Employment for Improved Racial Equity
Throughout U.S. history, systemic racism has permeated policies and practices within institutional structures, leading to deeply embedded racial and ethnic inequities. As the nation grapples with a long-overdue reckoning on racial injustice in the wake of George Floyd’s murder and confronts the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on Black and Latinx populations, now more than ever, closing equity gaps and overcoming racial injustices should be a primary aim of postsecondary and workforce policy and reform efforts.
The latest episode of JFF’s new podcast, When Policy Meets Practice, delves into the ways federal and state policy can help—rather than impede—progress in dismantling structural racism and cultivating pathways that lead to upward social and economic mobility for all.
To address equity gaps in student access and success, efforts must go beyond statements of support.
Host Paul Fain explores this issue with three community college leaders: Michael Baston of Rockland Community College, Janet Spriggs of Forsyth Technical Community College, and Cynthia Olivo of Pasadena City College—all of whom are members of JFF’s Policy Leadership Trust. In their conversations with Paul, Michael, Janet, and Cynthia discuss the steps their institutions have taken to improve equity. At the end of the episode, JFF’s Michael Collins and David Altstadt join Paul for a wrap-up conversation to put the issues in perspective.
Michael Baston kicks off the episode by discussing what policymakers and employers can do to create equitable outcomes for individuals from low-income households and Black, Latinx, and Indigenous populations. Michael notes that community college students are often the frontline workers supporting communities, and just as often, they are adult learners who are working in low-wage jobs and attending school part-time, with children of their own. To address equity gaps in student access and success, efforts must go beyond statements of support for these students. Michael argues that we currently have a window of opportunity for policymakers and employers to take action by investing in short-term training, and creating ladders for diverse candidates in the workforce.
Although the road to a more equitable society is long, maintaining our optimism, energy, and drive helps create policies and incentives to accelerate change.
Next up, Janet Spriggs talks about why state and federal funding streams should be used for holistic support. Forsyth Tech used local, state, and federal funds to launch Forsyth Tech CARES, a comprehensive approach to connecting students with a network of resources and support services, such as emergency aid, food, transportation, and legal assistance. In closing, Cynthia Olivo discusses Pasadena City College’s commitment to embedding diversity, equity, and inclusion in hiring and professional development for its faculty and staff members, ensuring they have the cultural competency to recognize and address the holistic needs of their student population.
Key Commitments for Colleges from the Policy Leadership Trust
Although the road to a more equitable society is long, maintaining our optimism, energy, and drive helps create policies and incentives to accelerate change. Last year, JFF’s Policy Leadership Trust identified five commitments community college leaders can make to close equity gaps to education and economic opportunities, and reform long-standing structures in higher education.
How to Listen to Episode 4 of When Policy Meets Practice
Tune in to the fourth episode of JFF’s When Policy Meets Practice podcast to hear Paul Fain talk with Michael Baston, Janet Spriggs, Cynthia Olivo, and JFF’s Michael Collins and David Altstadt about advancing equity. The episode is now available on JFF’s SoundCloud or on your favorite podcast platforms, using this shortcut.
You can find each episode in the Jobs for the Future feed in your favorite podcast app starting at 5:00 a.m. ET every other Monday. Be on the lookout for Episode 5, which will be available starting August 16. It will feature a conversation in which Paul Fain and his guests examine how policies sometimes create disincentives for accelerating pathways toward college completion.