Member Spotlight – Monica Lozano, President & CEO of College Futures Foundation
In the coming months, we will be featuring some of our members and their work to support boys and men of color in California.
What is your vision for College Futures Foundation’s work in California?
This is a unique moment to reignite our collective imagination about a shared future and set an agenda for achieving that future. College completion contributes to the economic vitality of our communities by preparing an educated and skilled workforce for the knowledge economy of the 21st century. It provides social mobility and increased earning power for individuals and their families. And it contributes to a more robust democracy by equipping individuals with the skills to become more civically engaged.
California has often led the nation in addressing important, complex issues. Now is the time to set a bold goal for college success in our state–one that clearly articulates a commitment to equity with an intentional focus on low-income and underrepresented groups. A central tenet of College Futures Foundation is that California thrives when we close educational opportunity, achievement, and attainment gaps.
What barriers in education are facing boys and men of color in California?
California’s young men of color face some unique barriers to reaching a BA that general reforms do not address. They make up a disproportionate share of our low-income and underserved students, and their educational outcomes are substantially lower than white and Asian-American men: 43% of white males earn a bachelor’s degree, while only 21% of African-Americans, 14% of Native Americans, and 11% of Latinos do. Our state has the highest attainment gap between whites and Latinos in the nation.
Areas for systematic improvement include: enrolling students in rigorous coursework; putting them on a streamlined pathway to a degree; supporting transitions to and through college; fostering a welcoming environment and community; and providing access to financial, academic, and socio-emotional supports.
If institutions do not appropriately target and tailor supports to underserved students, their outcomes will continue to lag. As a start, institutions and communities need to use data disaggregated by race, ethnicity, and gender to understand issues and outcomes, and share their findings widely.
How does College Futures work to address these barriers?
We have made improving outcomes for young men of color integral to our work—a focus that cuts across all of our initiatives. We support interventions that address the unique issues of race and gender for young men of color and provide support to students in a holistic way.
Specifically, we: layer race and gender lenses into our existing work with institutions; support convenings of institutional leaders; call for the use of disaggregated student data; and disseminate knowledge of successful policies and practices. We also support and build the capacity of community and civic leaders to champion education equity.
We understand this is a long-term play. Our focus now is on deepening understanding about how to improve educational outcomes for underserved young people, building relationships with key partners, and increasing urgency among institutions and community leaders to reduce race and gender gaps. It is of vital importance that we create demand for change.
Why is a focus on postsecondary education critical to expanding opportunity for boys and men of color? How does systems change play a role?
Today, almost two thirds of California’s students in public schools are from low-income families or are Latino, African-American, or from other groups with low rates of college degree attainment. Demographics tell us that they will be our workforce, civic and community leaders, and parents of the next generation. We must demonstrate a firm commitment to their success. That means a clear vision aligned around equity and supported by a robust system of accountability.
Disparities in student success by race and ethnicity are often a result of funding, policy, and institutional structures and actions—not a lack on the part of students themselves. Increasing the number of low-income and underrepresented Californians who earn bachelor’s degrees will require a well-functioning high-school-to-college pipeline. Right now, far too many students fall through the gaps during the transition from high school to college, or before they can transfer from two- to four-year postsecondary institutions.
Remediation is an important area for systems change. Different measures of college readiness between high schools and colleges have funneled nearly half of entering CSU students into traditional remedial courses, while 80% of students entering our community colleges are placed into remedial courses for which they earn no transferable credits. Of community college students placed into remedial math, only 9% eventually earn a bachelor’s degree.
We need K-12, community college, and four-year institutions working together to align curricula, harmonize expectations and assessment standards, map clear pathways and provide necessary supports to guide students through and between institutions. While much progress has been made, more must be done so that California’s education systems work in an integrated fashion and more young people can achieve the dream of a college degree.
You have an extensive experience across many sectors of education. What lessons would you share with funders supporting racial equity in education?
We need to be intentional and deliberate. We need to support and distribute best practices. We need to listen and learn. We need to hold institutions accountable. We need to keep student success in view as the guide star for our efforts.
Funders can play an important role in this work. I believe we have both the freedom and the responsibility to aim high and set bold college goals on behalf of our students. Our young people need to know that California will not allow them to be left behind. Our collective future depends on it.