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Cal State LA receives grant to support adult learners of color access higher education

October 14, 2021
Student walking towards commencement cermony, casting a shadow.
Photo: A graduating student who participated in Cal State LA's 2021 Commencement ceremony. (Credit: Robert Huskey/Cal State LA)

Cal State LA receives grant to support adult learners of color access higher education

October 14, 2021
Student walking towards commencement cermony, casting a shadow.
Photo: A graduating student who participated in Cal State LA's 2021 Commencement ceremony. (Credit: Robert Huskey/Cal State LA)

Cal State LA has received a grant from the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) and Coalition of Urban Serving Universities (USU) to support a university-community partnership aimed at leveraging the assets of Black, Latino, and Indigenous adult learners.

“Cal State LA is excited to receive this grant in order to work with Promesa Boyle Heights, a strong community partner, to continue to support access to and successful completion of a college degree for historically underrepresented communities,” said Octavio Villalpando, vice president for diversity, equity, inclusion, and student life.

Through the $55,000 APLU grant, Cal State LA seeks to identify and address barriers facing adult students of color to help guide them through the higher education process.

“Black, Latino/x, and Indigenous adult learners have an extraordinary set of assets, and we’re thrilled to work with our institutions to address barriers they face to accessing and completing a bachelor’s degree,” said Christel Perkins, assistant vice president at APLU and deputy executive director of USU. “These grants will help institutions develop and expand partnerships with community organizations to create an ecosystem harnessing the wealth of experiences and assets these adult learners embody.”

Cal State LA’s Charter College of Education (CCOE) and Division of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DDEI) will partner with Promesa Boyle Heights to identify and eliminate barriers hampering the success of adult learners of color in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles.

“In collaboration with Promesa Boyle Heights, this important project will focus on identifying the barriers that Chicanx/Latinx, Indigenous, and Black adult learners confront when pursuing or continuing an undergraduate degree and then work to address them,” said CCOE Dean Cheryl Ney. “The project also strengthens the campus commitment to meeting the needs of people in the Boyle Heights area, an area that Cal State LA serves.”

CCOE Professor Anthony Hernandez and DDEI Associate Vice President Andre Ellis will lead this initiative on behalf of Cal State LA.

“We anticipate a very successful program as a result of their able leadership,” Villalpando noted.

Hernandez has identified that, in California, Latinx adults ages 25-64 have the lowest bachelor’s degree attainment rate (15%), whereas American Indians/Alaska Natives have the second-lowest rate (19%), followed by Black adults (28%).

The partnership will focus on an outreach effort conducting surveys and focus groups with adult learners in the Boyle Heights and broader East Los Angeles community. Cal State LA will use this data to inform its student success initiatives, including equity-based advising and holistic support.

Seven other institutions are also receiving grants to undertake similar projects. Each institution will partner with a local organization, such as an employer, to build an ecosystem for helping Black, Latino, and Indigenous learners thrive. Additionally, institutions will critically examine their advising, enrollment and re-enrollment practices, and student support services to identify and eliminate barriers facing students. Lumina Foundation is funding the effort.

The other seven institutions receiving grants are: California State University, Fresno; the University of Colorado Denver; Florida International University; the University of Illinois Chicago; University of Memphis; University of New Orleans; and Portland State University.

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California State University, Los Angeles is the premier comprehensive public university in the heart of Los Angeles. Cal State LA is ranked number one in the United States for the upward mobility of its students. Cal State LA is dedicated to engagement, service, and the public good, offering nationally recognized programs in science, the arts, business, criminal justice, engineering, nursing, education, and the humanities. Founded in 1947, the University serves more than 27,000 students and has more than 250,000 distinguished alumni.

Cal State LA is home to the critically-acclaimed Luckman Fine Arts Complex, Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs, Hertzberg-Davis Forensic Science Center, Hydrogen Research and Fueling Facility, Billie Jean King Sports Complex and the TV, Film and Media Center. For more information, visit www.CalStateLA.edu.