West Chester University and Delaware County Community College have joined a national initiative to help more students of color and other historically underserved populations in Southeastern Pennsylvania graduate from college.

The “Moon Shot for Equity” is a student-success initiative led by EAB, an education firm based in Washington, D.C. The two schools will be the first members of the project’s Southeastern Pennsylvania Regional Collaborative.

A statement from EAB and the colleges last week said the two schools have committed to implementing more than a dozen practices proven to remove systemic barriers to student success.

The commitments include updating academic policies, establishing common academic pathways, and providing equity-mindedness training to university and college leaders. EAB will provide research, technology, and advisory services to the schools.

Only about half of Black and Latinx students who enter college earn an undergraduate degree within six years, compared with nearly 70% percent of white students, the statement said. The statistics are similarly poor for first-generation students and those from families with lower incomes, regardless of race.

EAB launched the Moon Shot for Equity last October with colleges and universities in southeastern Wisconsin. Those schools have conducted equity mindedness training for more than 600 participants, reformed procedures that prevent students from registering for classes because of minor administrative or financial complications, and made it easier for students to move, with their credits, between higher education institutions.

“The collaboration between West Chester University, Delaware County Community College, and EAB is the type of innovative partnership that can help change the entire trajectory of so many students’ lives,” said Tanya I. Garcia, acting deputy secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Education. “We applaud these schools for doing the hard work that will benefit our learners and ultimately, our entire region.”

Last year, the two schools strengthened a dual admission agreement so that qualified DCCC students can earn an associate’s degree and then transfer seamlessly to West Chester University with guaranteed housing, a renewable scholarship, and success coaching.

“Colleges and universities have a responsibility to provide equitable access for students who have historically been excluded from their career aspirations and economic prosperity because of disparities in education,” said DCCC President L. Joy Gates Black.

“Delaware County Community College and West Chester University have a rich history of working together to promote student access and success, and through Moon Shot for Equity and other initiatives we will create and maintain an environment where all students can excel and achieve their dreams regardless of whether they are first-generation students, single parents, veterans, or students of color.”

West Chester University President Christopher M. Fiorentino said the project will help make higher education possible for more students of color and students who have significant financial need. “It is up to us to work together to develop ways to eliminate one of the greatest barriers of our times — systemic equity gaps,” Fiorentino said.

In addition to EAB’s services, the schools will receive guidance from well-known student success leaders Tim Renick at Georgia State University and Paula Short at Houston GPS.

The colleges also plan to partner with local high schools as well as local business and community leaders to help more underserved students gain access to college. Moonshot schools can use EAB’s College Greenlight program, which provides underserved students with resources and information on how to identify best-fit universities, search for scholarships, and connect with counselors.

EAB hopes to recruit other two- and four-year schools in the region to join the program, said Tom Sugar, the company’s vice president of partnerships.

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