Diversity & Democracy: Civic Learning for Shared Futures
Diversity Innovations Institutional Leadership and Commitment
Diversity Digest Volume 7, Number 4

Diversity Digest
Volume 8,
Number 1

Download our print issue (PDF)
Institutional Leadership and Commitment
The Right to Learn and the Pathways to College Network
Faculty Involvement
Designing Pathways to a Four-Year Degree
Preparing Students to Succeed in Broad Access Postsecondary Institutions
African-American Student Achievement in Historically Black Colleges and Universities
College Choice and Diversity
Making Diversity News
Media Watch
Linking Student Support with Student Success: The Posse Foundation
Diversity Digest’s New Editor

The Right to Learn and the Pathways to College Network

By Mark Giles, editor, Diversity Digest, and director, Office of Diversity, Equity,
and Global Initiatives

Carol Geary Schneider

Carol Geary Schneider,
president, AAC&U

“The mission of the Pathways to College Network is to focus research-based knowledge and resources on improving college preparation, access, and success for underserved populations, including low-income, underrepresented minority, and first-generation students” (www.pathwaystocollege.net). With that clear and focused statement, the Pathways to College Network has set a powerful national education agenda that is socially responsive, transformative, and action-oriented.

In June 2003, the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) joined the Pathways as a lead partner. Carol Geary Schneider, president of AAC&U, explained AAC&U’s commitment to supporting viable pathways to college for all students: “As we articulated in a recent statement issued after the Supreme Court’s decisions on affirmative action, higher education must take on an expanded role in our nation’s ongoing quest for equal opportunity. We must redouble our efforts to work in partnership with primary and secondary educators to improve the quality of educational outcomes for all the nation’s children, especially those who have been underserved by the system.”

Various educational, civic, and philanthropic partners across the nation are actively engaged with and fully committed to the values, principles, and mission of Pathways. Indeed, several major educational funding organizations support Pathways and its efforts to help underserved students gain access to and find success in college. In turn, those postsecondary experiences hold the promise of opening the doors to greater earning potential, of broadening participation in society, and of ending the cycle of inadequate schooling and limited life opportunities faced by many underserved students.

The Pathways to College Network’s major policy report, A Shared Agenda: A Leadership Challenge to Improve College Access and Success, outlines six major principles that guide action for teachers, researchers, leaders, policy makers, and community members involved with K-12 and higher education. The report is more than a simple call to action; it is a flexible and workable blueprint for pedagogical, institutional, and operational changes that will improve education for underserved and marginalized students. The six principles outlined in the report are:

  • Expect that all underserved students are capable of being prepared to enroll and succeed in college
  • Provide a range of high-quality college preparatory tools for underserved students and their families
  • Embrace social, cultural, and learning-style differences in developing learning environments and activities for underserved students
  • Involve leaders at all levels in establishing policies, programs, and practices that facilitate student transitions toward postsecondary attainment
  • Maintain sufficient financial and human resources to enable underserved students to prepare for, enroll, and succeed in college
  • Assess policy, program, practice, and institutional effectiveness regularly

Rich in useful information, the Pathways Web site provides a comprehensive summary of the work of the Network and its partners. Visit www.pathwaystocollege.net to find out more.

Inside this Issue of Diversity Digest

Sponsored by the Pathways to College Network, this issue of Diversity Digest highlights some of the research that informs Pathways. In future issues, we plan to publish articles that focus on best practices and student experiences.

Most of the contributors to this issue are higher education researchers who serve on the Pathways Research Scholars Panel. Special acknowledgement goes to Barbara Hill, AAC&U senior fellow, who helped contact the contributors and construct the outline of this issue.
Several of the articles identify factors that affect underserved students’ ability to attend and succeed at postsecondary institutions. Alberto Cabrera, Kurt Burkum, and Steven La Nasa highlight factors that affect college enrollment and share findings from a research report on a 1980 cohort of high school sophomores. One implication of their research is not shocking: College planning and preparation should begin in middle school. The authors outline several strategies for moving young students along the pathway toward successful postsecondary experiences.

Michael W. Kirst argues for improving the quality of education received by underserved students who attend broad access schools. Specifically, Kirst shares several findings and recommendations from the Bridge Project, a six-year national study from Stanford University that began in 1996.

M. Christopher Brown’s article focuses on African-American student success at historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). His findings reveal interesting data on the significant role of HBCUs in educating and graduating African-American students and on the shifts in where African-American students attend college.

For a practical perspective on access and retention strategies for underserved and minority students, Deborah Bial, executive director of The Posse Foundation, shares the good news of her organization’s excellent work. She describes how growing numbers of underserved students from urban settings are finding academic success in our nation’s top colleges and universities with help from the Posse Foundation. The Posse Foundation’s outstanding record of success and influence is clear and growing. Ms. Bial shares the secrets of why and how this is true.

Lastly, Patricia McDonough describes the factors that influence how underserved and minority students choose a college. She notes how factors such as race, socio-economic status, high school experiences, college recruitment efforts, and the perceptions of an institution’s racial climate significantly shape the college choices students make.

W. E. B. Du Bois observed that “Of all the civil rights for which the world has struggled and fought for 5,000 years, the right to learn is undoubtedly the most fundamental.” Higher education can play a significant role in securing that right for children from low-income families and for children of color. The Pathways to College Network illustrates how to make democracy’s promise of equal opportunity available to all Americans. Now it is up to each of us to act on what we know.

We hope you find this issue of Diversity Digest informative and interesting.

Further information about Pathways, its research and resources, can be found at www.pathwaystocollege.net.

To see AAC&U’s statement on “Diversity and Democracy: The Unfinished Work,” issued after the recent Supreme Court decisions on affirmative action, see www.aacu.org/About/

AAC&U thanks the Pathways to College Network for its generous support for this issue of Diversity Digest.

Questions, comments, and suggestions regarding Diversity & Democracy should be directed to Kathryn Peltier Campbell at campbell@aacu.org.
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