csu convenes working group to create an equity agenda for black college students in illinois

private, public, and community sectors unite to reverse growing inequality

chicago, (july 30, 2020) – chicago state university (csu) announced the convening of a cross-industry working group to address the growing crisis for black students in illinois’ higher education system. for years, illinois has seen a drop in the rate at which illinois black students are attending and graduating from its colleges which in turn impacts access to the education needed by the state’s labor market. the equity working group will focus on the creation of a policy agenda for all of illinois focused on improved college access, completion and workforce opportunities for its black college students. the equity working group, which will provide a multi-year and long-term action plan for employers, the secondary and postsecondary education systems, faculty, students, legislators, philanthropy, and community-based institutions from across the state.

the equity working group is co-chaired by president zaldwaynaka scott of chicago state university, senator elgie sims (representing the 17th district and serving on appropriation committees), mr. john atkinson (executive vice president and managing director of willis towers watson and board chair of the illinois board of higher education), and ms. karen freeman-wilson (president and ceo of chicago urban league). the civic consulting alliance is supporting the formation and standup of the equity working group

“the data is clear: illinois’ higher education system is not fully supporting black students,” said zaldwaynaka scott, esq., president of chicago state university. “we must reframe our actions to improve outcomes. now more than ever, diverse leaders must come together to create meaningful access to college for black students who can become leaders in their professions and their communities.”

“systemic racism plagues every path to success, including higher education,” senator sims said. “black communities are struggling to find enough resources to fulfill the promise of a college education. my hope is that together we will develop solutions that will help eliminate long-standing barriers, so our black students will have the same opportunities to earn a college degree as students of any other background.”

chicago state university committed to covening an equity focused working group in the wake of the death of george floyd and countless others and other evidence of structural and systemic racism that impacts the everyday lives of black people. higher education has a critical role in answering the public call for meaningful and lasting change. indicators that the higher education system is failing our black students is well-documented. even prior to the coronavirus pandemic, illinois faced an inclusion crisis with black student enrollment in public higher education declining 26% between 2013 and 2017 while enrollment with other groups is increasing.

"as a business executive, i have seen first hand how diverse teams deliver better outcomes and more profitable results," said john atkinson, executive vice president and Managing Director, Willis Towers Watson & Board Chair of the illinois Board of higher education. "by improving black students' success, illinois will not only tackle a moral imperative, but also drive more robust economic growth. i am excited that ibhe, csu, and influential leaders across sectors are partnering to identify and address the challenges our state faces."

the equity working group will meet between september 2020 and january 2021 in order to design an equity agenda and action plan for improving black student success in illinois. the plan will identify structural obstacles that prevent black communities from enrolling or completing college and succeeding upon graduation. the equity working group will complete their work in time for the start of the 2021 illinois legislative session.

“i am humbled to join this distinguished group who have a track record of fighting to achieve equality in our community,” said karen freeman-wilson of the chicago urban league. “access to a college education is one of the most significant ways to position young people to make civic and professorial contributions to the community. it is also an opportunity to grow wealth and address the divide that has been increasingly clear. the best aspect of our work is our ability to develop solutions to create sustainable change.”

the equity working group is comprised of leaders with experience in fields that shape african americans’ likelihood in starting or completing college and succeeding in a career after college, with leaders coming from across the state of illinois. 

equity working group members

working group co-chairs

working group