"When state higher education leaders gathered (in person!) here last week, their agenda included the usual topics: expanding access to college, improving completion and ensuring that students are prepared for work and life after graduating. But their first major gathering since before the COVID-19 pandemic was also their first convening since the other major world-shaking event of 2020: the racial justice upheaval in the wake of multiple killings of Black Americans by police.

The extent to which that set of developments has reshaped the priorities of many higher education leaders was evident in the prevalence of topics related to equity and diversity on the agenda of the State Higher Education Executive Officers’ Higher Education Policy Conference. Almost half of the 50 or so individual sessions touched meaningfully on those themes, a noticeable increase from previous years.

For the first morning’s keynote address, SHEEO turned to someone who has made a habit of calling out how various parts of the higher education ecosystem have themselves contributed to inequitable opportunity: Shaun Harper, founder and executive director of the University of Southern California’s Race and Equity Center.Harper spent the first part of his presentation—“Racial Equity Through Raceless Policy Making?”—discussing the “litany” of signs of racial, socioeconomic and other inequities in higher education. Gaps in educational outcomes between Black, Hispanic and Indigenous students are large and expanding because of the pandemic. Campus climate surveys conducted by Harper’s center at USC consistently reveal discrimination faced by minority students." Read more here.

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