Led by the myFutureNC Commission, North Carolina has set an ambitious goal of increasing the number of adults aged 25-44 who earn a high-quality postsecondary degree or credential from 1.3 million to 2 million by 2030. At the Education Trust, we examined postsecondary attainment and found significant differences in degree attainment between black and Latino adults, and white adults. In order to ensure that postsecondary attainment goals are met, states must take active steps to boost attainment for black and Latino residents.
In North Carolina, black and Latino residents account for 54% of the targeted 25-44 age group included in the myFutureNC goal. But only 30.5% of black adults and 18.8% of Latino adults in North Carolina have earned an associate degree or higher compared to 46.9% of white adults aged 25-64. Nationally, 47.1% of white adults have earned an associate’s degree or higher compared to only 30.8% of black adults and 22.6% of Latino adults. While North Carolina has done well compared to other states in increasing black attainment since 2000, gains in Latino attainment have been well below the national average.
We know there are significant structural barriers to college access and attainment for black and Latino people. Policy can create barriers or improve opportunities. North Carolina’s education leaders and policymakers, working in conjunction with myFutureNC, can strengthen postsecondary attainment in North Carolina by prioritizing racial equity and justice by implementing these best practices:
- Conduct an analysis of equity gaps in the P-12 system to understand how inequity contributes to postsecondary gaps.
- Set separate and trackable attainment goals for students of color.
- Identify and pursue strategies aimed at specifically improving outcomes for students of color and institutions serving large shares of students of color.
- Establish benchmarks and use data to track progress overtime including campus-level data on racial equity.
As myFutureNC continues to take steps towards meeting a statewide attainment goal, policymakers and education and workforce leaders will need to take active steps to close the attainment gap for black and Latino students. North Carolina can look to states like Kentucky, Minnesota, and Texas that have successfully prioritized equity in their attainment goals in order to ensure that all North Carolinians have equity in opportunity to contribute to the goal.
The Education Trust is a national nonprofit that works to close opportunity gaps that disproportionately affect students of color and students from low-income families through research and advocacy. To learn more about their research regarding equity in statewide attainment goals, check out the Hunt Institute’s Intersection Webinar, “Aiming for Equity,” featuring Tiffany Jones, Director of Higher Education Policy.
Editor’s note: This perspective was first published by the Hunt Institute. It has been posted with the author’s permission.