How Minnesota State is building cross-campus collaborations to center equity

How Minnesota State is building cross-campus collaborations to center equity

By Teri Hinds, Minnesota State

I joined Minnesota State as the Senior Director of Strategic Initiatives – Equity 2030 on March 11, 2020, just days before Governor Walz issued the order that sent Minnesotans across the state to work from home. Over the next several months, as I reacclimated to the state in which I grew up and learned how it changed in the 8 years I’d spent living and working in Washington, DC – and how it hadn’t – the on-going inequities within higher education were continually highlighted.

As the COVID-19 pandemic swept through our communities, putting many out of paid employment and adding Herculean expectations onto the shoulders of others, the economic importance of addressing educational equity gaps have been heightened.

In 2019, the Minnesota Office of Higher Education’s Educating for the Future 2019 Update cited “[a]nalysis of data from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) shows that over 68% of jobs paying family-sustaining wages require postsecondary education beyond high school.”

In 2015, our state legislature set an attainment goal of 70% for residents between the ages of 24 and 44. Included in the statute is an acknowledgement that reaching the goal “will likely be difficult without achieving attainment rates that are comparable across all race and ethnicity groups.” (Minn. Laws 2015 Chapter 69 Article 3 Sec. 6 Subd. 5b) As the percentage of populations of color – especially Black and Hispanic populations – increases in both Minnesota and the nation’s population, it is mathematically necessary that racial gaps in educational attainment be closed in order to meet the demands of our economy and maintain our economic competitiveness.

In late May, the murder of George Floyd emphasized the continued structural and systemic racism endemic in our country and in our state that persists in denying the full rights of citizens and residents of color. While there are solid economic reasons for closing educational opportunity gaps, the COVID-19 pandemic and the racial unrest occurring across the United States since the summer of 2020 highlight the need to attend to the moral imperative with equal rigor. Culture changes slowly and intentional culture change requires dedication and time.

Dr. Ibram X. Kendi emphasizes that changing hearts and minds will not be enough to redress structural racism. Dr. Kendi’s work on anti-racism[1] points to the need to change policy to truly unwork the racism embedded in our societal structures.

Equity 2030, the sole strategic priority of Minnesota State, is not, therefore, an initiative. Equity 2030 is, like anti-racism, an approach to intentionally rethinking the way Minnesota State and its institutions operate on a day-to-day level. Work to support equity-minded campus practices and pedagogy has been happening at Minnesota State institutions for decades – long before I started in my role.

Many faculty and staff have been tireless in their efforts to raise and refocus their institutions on addressing equity, on creating culturally responsive and reflective pedagogy, on supporting the needs of low-income and first-generation students, and more. Their work has been innovative and inspiring but has too often been limited to the walls of their own classrooms or campuses.

As a system, Minnesota State engages in partnerships and grant-funded opportunities to support the needs of students, but these opportunities are often limited to a few institutions at a time. The grand vision of Equity 2030 is reflected in the vision of the College Race Equity Advocacy Advisory Council: to create intentionality at the system level and across Minnesota to communicate and coordinate across departmental, divisional, and institution silos to embed equity-minded practice and policies at every level.

Beyond simple communication, Equity 2030 creates an impetus to critically review how we work; note where our policies, procedures, and structures don’t allow us to work efficiently toward removing barriers for the Equity 2030 focus populations; and identify and implement better paths forward for equitable educational attainment.

[1] Kendi, I. X. (2019). How to Be An Antiracist. New York, NY: One World.


Teri Hinds is the Senior Director of Strategic Initiatives – Equity 2030 at Minnesota State Colleges and Universities

Thank you to 2021’s CREAAC members

Thank you to 2021’s CREAAC members

These Minnesota race equity leaders and advocates are essential for building transformative change to honor Minnesota’s students of color and American Indian students.

Kenneth Bartlett, Department Chair, College of Education and Human Development, University of Minnesota – Twin Cities
Lara Couturier, Principal, Couturier Consulting LLC
Michael Dueñes, Community Leader
Ambar Hanson, Community Relationship Officer, Mortenson Family Foundation
Teri Hinds, Senior Director of Strategic Initiatives – Equity 2030, Minnesota State Colleges and Universities
Alison Kadlec, Founding Partner, SOVA Solutions
Larry Litecky, Community Leader and Retired Faculty and Administrator with Minnesota State Colleges and Universities
Jeannette Lutter-Gardella, Director of Educational Policy and Programs, Isuroon
Carlos Mariani Rosa, Executive Director and MN State Representative, Minnesota Education Equity Partnership and MN House of Representatives
Leiataua Robert Jon Peterson, MnEEP Long-term Consultant, MnEEP and President TE2 Consulting
Molly Priesmeyer, MnEEP Communications Consultant
Sandy Pulles (co-chair), Vice President of Equity and Inclusion, ServeMinnesota
Fernando Rodriguez, Director, Multicultural Center for Academic Excellence, University of Minnesota – Twin Cities
Megan Rozowski (co-chair), Director of Research and Policy Development, Minnesota Private Colleges
Tricia Wilkinson, Director, TRIO Upward Bound, College of Education and Human Development, University of Minnesota – Twin Cities
Jenny Xiong, Admissions Counselor and Asian American Liaison, Metropolitan State University
Pa Dao Yang, Assistant Director of Student Support and Success Department of Multicultural Life, Macalester College

Modernizing the State Grant Formula

Modernizing the State Grant Formula to meet the needs of POCI students

By Megan Rozowski
Director of Research and Policy Development, Minnesota Private College Council

Minnesota has some of the largest race equity gaps in higher educational attainment in the country. These inequities in higher education in turn feed the economic inequities POCI communities face in the state—60% of jobs that that pay a family sustaining wage in Minnesota require a bachelor’s degree or higher. The average income for Minnesotans with a bachelor’s degree is $60,300, compared to $35,300 for those whose highest level of education is a high school degree.

We can improve our systems and policies by investing in POCI students to reduce disparities in higher educational attainment and economic disparities POCI Minnesotans face. In 2020 MnEEP released Reducing Racial Disparities in College Completion: The Case for and Equitable Higher Education Financial Aid System in Minnesota.This research brief examines the financial aid systems of the State of Minnesota using a race equity lens, and makes recommendations to improve systems and policies to support POCI students, increase college attainment, and reduce racial disparities in college attainment.

College affordability is a major roadblock for POCI students and families. The share of people living below the federal poverty level is higher for Native American (30%), Black (27%), Latino (15%), and Asian (11%) Minnesotans than it is for White Minnesotans (7%). Need-based financial aid is key to making college affordable for POCI students. Research shows that increasing need-based grants increases the number of credits students take each term, increases retention, decreases time to degree, and increases graduation rates.

The Minnesota State Grant is our state’s need-based financial aid program, and the only way that the state of Minnesota gives money to low- and middle-income students to cover college costs. Fifty-six percent of Minnesota POCI students attending college in the state receive a State Grant.

We need to invest more money in POCI students, and we can do so through increased investment in the State Grant program.”

Unfortunately, the State Grant has not been modernized to meet the needs of today’s students. The MnEEP research brief found that the assumptions the State Grant are based on are outdated. For example, students cannot cover 50% of their college costs through work and borrowing unless they work too much, which negatively impacts retention, or borrow too much. And the State Grant program does not recognize the true living costs students face. The research brief made key recommendations to modernize the program to meet the needs of POCI students, and the CREAAC built upon those recommendations over the past year.

In working with MnEEP, I’ve learned that if we want equal outcomes, we need to have equitable – not equal — inputs. We must analyze policies with a race equity lens and invest in the people and the communities that have been underinvested in. Eliminating racial disparities in college completion will increase the incomes and career options of POCI Minnesotans in the short-term and result in multi-generational economic mobility in the long-term.

This investment will in turn drive economic growth for the state overall. We need to invest more money in POCI students, and we can do so through increased investment in the State Grant program, making college more affordable by efficiently giving funds directly to those students who are most in need. By investing in POCI students through the State Grant, Minnesota would make college more affordable for State Grant recipients at all colleges in the state, allowing POCI students to pick the college and the program that best aligns with their education and career goals.

Student Debt

Addressing Student Debt

Advocating for new models to reduce the student debt burden for POCI students

Ensuring critical student consumer protections while working to demystify student debt is essential if Minnesota wants to ensure racial equity in college access and reduce the disproportionate debt POCI students face.

According to the nonprofit Student Borrower Protection Center, there are 775,300 student-loan borrowers in Minnesota with a collective $29.1 billion in student-loan debt, for an average student-loan debt load of about $37,500 per borrower.

Minnesotans rank fourth in country in average student loan debt per state resident, according to statistics from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Minnesotans owe about $6,280 for every man, woman, and child in the state. 

What to know about student debt and racial inequities

Five myths about student debt

Student debt, as a category of consumer debt, is second only to mortgages. Here are five misconceptions about the debt they’ll spend years or even decades paying back.

The racial inequities of student debt

Today, student debt is furthering the racial wealth gap in Minnesota and across the country. Here’s how it’s especially impacting Black students.

How states can solve the student-debt crisis

As student debt is increasing financial insecurity, states across the country are working towards solutions to address student-loan burdens.

Our Race Equity Compact

The Minnesota Equity in Higher Education Compact

MnEEP’s Minnesota Equity in Higher Education Compact is grounded in a shared responsibility across higher education systems and institutions in Minnesota to build a racially equitable higher education system together.

The Compact uses an equity lens to center our collective efforts and actions for advocating for transformative change through the following core commitments:

We also recognize that Minnesota is not on track to meet the State’s attainment goal of 70% of Minnesotans of all races and ethnicities having a post-secondary degree or certificate by 2025.

Disaggregated data reveals a significant gap in higher education degree attainment for students who are Black, Latinx, and American Indian compared to white students.

Meeting the attainment goal for college completion is a critical step toward driving socioeconomic growth in Minnesota for all citizens and, more importantly, it is a matter of racial justice and equality.

Furthermore, systemic and structural racism have historically contributed to and continue contributing to inequitable access and degree completion for POCI students in higher education.

Significantly increasing equitable access and degree completion for POCI students in higher education, by removing systemic and structural barriers prohibiting the growth of equity, is a socioeconomic need and, more importantly, a moral imperative for Minnesota.

Increasingly scarce resource appropriations to support students, institutions, and systems, however, has led to a hyper-competitive environment for student enrollment that pits colleges, universities, and systems against one another. 

This hyper-competitive environment leads to inefficiencies and perverse incentives that prevent us from working together in more collaborative and effective ways that would directly benefit historically excluded groups of individuals from accessing and completing higher education with a post-secondary degree or certificate. 

We pledge to assertively pursue opportunities that will create more equitable spaces for our systems and institutions to collaborate and work collectively to address the systemic underinvestment in higher education in Minnesota and POCI students in particular.

  1. Interrogate our policies, procedures, practices, budget allocations, and expenditures to identify and dismantle systemic and structural impediments to equitable student success;
  2. Improve teaching and learning through the ongoing implementation of anti-racist and culturally responsive teaching practices that honor the dignity, worth, and asset-based knowledge and skills of POCI students, faculty and staff; and
  3. Attend to the full range of student needs by drawing on national evidence around holistic and integrated student supports across the student learning journey.
  1. Increasing financial investments in, and bringing to scale evidence-based, high-impact practices, and models that accelerate college access, retention, and degree attainment for POCI students and close college completion gaps based on race.
  1. Transforming our systems, institutions, and organizations to be accessible, racially just, culturally relevant, responsive, and safe and brave spaces for POCI students in higher education to learn, grow, and thrive.

Resolution: We, the undersigned, do commit on behalf of each of our systems, institutions, and/or organizations to: 

  • center race equity in our work; 
  • maintain an asset-based mindset with respect to POCI students; 
  • collaborate and share evidence-based, high-impact practices across systems, organizations, and institutions to accelerate college access, retention, and degree or credential attainment; and 
  • examine and reevaluate our institutional practices so as to achieve race equity in higher education access and completion in Minnesota.

Yes, I commit to advancing Minnesota’s Race Equity in Higher Education Compact!