UWM commits to ending equity gap in higher education

November 26, 2020

By Genaro C. Armas

UWM is collaborating on the Moon Shot for Equity with regional partners Carthage College, Milwaukee Area Technical College and the University of Wisconsin-Parkside.

UWM is joining the Moon Shot for Equity, a national initiative with the goal of eliminating equity gaps in higher education by 2030. The announcement was made in late October.

The Moon Shot for Equity is a public-private partnership with education firm EAB, which is dedicated to ensuring students of color graduate at the same rate as white students. The initiative also seeks to graduate more students from other historically underrepresented populations, such as first generation students and those who are from low income households.

“The Moon Shot is an initiative to advance college completion rates and eliminate equity gaps,” UWM Chancellor Mark Mone said. “Let me stress that again: eliminate. Not ‘reduce,’ or ‘turn the corner,’ but absolutely eliminate.”

Wisconsin is last in the country in the high school equity gap for Black students, and in the bottom seven of all 50 states for Hispanic students. Those disparities carry over into higher education.

According to data compiled by the Higher Education Regional Alliance, white students in the seven-county Milwaukee region earn college degrees or certificates at significantly higher rates than Hispanic and Black students. The same is true specifically at UWM.

“This is not a place that we want to be,” Mone said. “We find this unacceptable, so it’s our collective goal to provide fair and equitable access to college and graduation for all of our students.”

The disparities have contributed to a workforce talent shortage in southeastern Wisconsin for the last decade. The Moon Shot for Equity can help employers, students and ultimately the entire region by increasing the number of college graduates and opening doors to prosperity.

As part of the initiative, UWM will work toward a series of goals covering a range of areas, including academic policies, advising and support, and taking advantage of technology to better serve students.

Moon Shot for Equity strategies also recognize how the cost of college might impact a student’s ability to earn a degree, a potential obstacle especially important to address during a period of financial uncertainty.

For many students, a four year degree is taking up to six years to complete. Moon Shot strategies support students graduating in four years, which not only cuts down on costs but provides an opportunity for quicker entry into the workforce.

The Moon Shot for Equity includes a collaborative component with Carthage College, Milwaukee Area Technical College and the University of Wisconsin- Parkside. It’s the country’s first regional consortium of higher education institutions to sign on to the initiative.

Leaders from the four institutions and EAB will collaborate to share data, ideas and best practices to eliminate equity gaps. They’ll partner with high schools and community organizations to help underserved students learn how to search for scholarships, connect with counselors and identify best-fit universities. EAB will provide schools with technology, advisory services and research to enhance the work at each institution. “We know that we need collective efforts,” Mone said.

“We know that there’s power in the sharing of best practices. We know there are great ideas in public and private, and two-year and four-year institutions. If we band together, we can make a much greater difference than any of us can do on our own.”

The initiative’s name stems from another ambitious national goal. NASA’s successful moon shot more than five decades ago proved that obstacles can be overcome by fully committing and working together in innovative ways.

Learn more at uwm.edu/moon-shot.