CU Denver Chancellor Attends Inaugural Education Equity Day of Dialogue

March 16, 2021

On March 15, 2021, Colorado held its first-ever Educational Equity Day of Dialogue, a convening of education partners across the state to discuss a roadmap for change in the diversity, equity, and inclusion space. Highlighting a new Report on Educational Equity titled “Creating a Colorado for All,” leaders discussed needs assessment and data, recommendations, and an action plan for erasing equity gaps currently seen in higher education. This was put forth by the Colorado Department of Higher Education (CDHE) and Colorado Equity Champions Coalition (ECC).  

Attendees of the inaugural event included Gov. Jared Polis, state Representative Leslie Herod, Angie Paccione from the Colorado Department of Higher Education, Wil Del Pilar from the Education Trust, and many more, including CU Denver’s chancellor, Michelle Marks. 

Beginning with a discussion on the “state of equity,” leaders emphasized the importance of educational equity work and associated data—not just for today, but for the future generations to come.  

“The U.S. was built as a land of opportunity for all,” CDHE and ECC leaders noted. “While this may hold true for some, these opportunities are not equally available to all… the nature of the nation’s forming has had long-lasting negative impacts on Black, Indigenous, and people of color.”  

The report data shows that gaps exist in both students attending college and overall college completion rates. Workforce earnings is also a major pain point in terms of equity, as males earn more than females with the same credentials, up to $24,000 when comparing the same bachelor’s degree in STEM fields. 

College-Going Students 

  • Gaps greater than 30% exist by race/ethnicity 
  • Gaps between 6% and 11% exist by gender 
  • Gaps between 14% and 23% exist by socioeconomic status 

College Completion 

  • Black or African American and American Indian or Alaska Native complete at the lowest rates compared to white and Asian students 
  • Females complete at higher rates than males 

Workforce Earnings 

  • Racial disparities exist when looking within the same gender. Gaps of up to $7,000 when looking between Hispanic or Latinx females and Black or African American females with a health certificate  
  • The largest gap between males with the same degree lies within those with a certificate in trades, with a gap of nearly $9,000 

Given the data, what’s next? Event attendees noted that there are three major recommendations looking into the future: communicating that higher education is accessible to all identities, abilities, and races; infusing equity-minded practices throughout institutions, such as adapting curriculum to better reflect the voices of all students; and developing new policies that support equitable and inclusive practices.  

“Our action plan provides practical improvement strategies for ongoing activities to promote enrollment, persistence, and completion against equity gaps,” leaders said. “The ECC, state, and legislature are tasked and committed to this set of recommended actions.” 

By attending this event, institution leaders, legislative caucus leaders, and student organizations took a pledge—one to fiercely commit to the recommendations and strategies outlined in the report, and not just talk about change, but actually make it.  

“I was honored to participate in the signing ceremony for the Inaugural International Education Equity day of Dialogue with Governor Polis, Colorado’s Department of Higher Education, and so many of my colleagues,” said Chancellor Marks. “This was a great conversation, and there is much diversity, equity, and inclusion work ahead.”