Centering Adult Learners of Color through REACH

Tuesday, November 7, 2023
Christine Barrow, Ph.D.

As education leaders across the country have worked to increase postsecondary attainment in pursuit of a strong workforce and vibrant economy, many have realized that a focus on better serving adult learners of color must be central to those efforts. 

In recognition of this need, Lumina Foundation launched the Racial Equity for Adult Credentials in Higher Ed (REACH) Collaborative in 2021. Led by ESG and the University of Pittsburgh School of Education with support from DVP Praxis and Friday, REACH spans six states and nearly 140 community colleges in its efforts to create community college pathways that are designed for Black, Hispanic, and Native American adults to earn quality credentials that lead to a degree. 

Many community colleges want to improve the pathways, supports, and practices to better serve adult Black, Hispanic and Latino, and Native American students. These institutions need support, resources, and guidance to reimagine their systems and structures to put more adult learners of color on a trajectory to real opportunity. 

Since REACH launched two years ago, participating states and colleges have made some big strides in their efforts to better serve adult learners of color. Read on to learn about some of the innovations that these leaders are focused on expanding to serve more learners in the year ahead: 

California: California intentionally and fully embedded REACH efforts within their Guided Pathways strategy to ensure that as colleges were reimagining pathways, they did so with adult learners of color in mind. The state leverages Regional Pathways Coordinators and a virtual resource center to contextualize work to each region and maximize access to information that can support colleges.

Colorado: Colorado created a new position—Director of Adult Student Success—within the Colorado Community College System (CCSS) office to provide a centralized mechanism for coordinating the supports critical to ensuring successful outcomes for adult learners. Each year the CCCS Chancellor hosts an Adult Learner Summit to highlight innovation and facilitate shared learning for this system priority.

New York: New York has identified DEI and Social Justice Fellows to work with each participating college to intentionally support adult learners of color. New York is also building on SUNY’s work on credit for prior learning programs to appropriately recognize students’ previous learning achievements that qualify for college credit.

North Carolina: North Carolina has woven REACH into a broader state focus on adult learners, including using the lessons learned from the NC Reconnect cohorts. North Carolina uses Equity Coaches to work with each college, especially as they dive into credit and non-credit enrollment and completion data to identify disparities. 

Virginia: Virginia has connected two separately funded projects together in an effort to combine multiple funding streams to magnify impact. Virginia’s Infrastructure Academy creates pathways to high-demand jobs associated with infrastructure industries; the state leveraged REACH to improve these new pathways to better support adult learners of color as they navigate these opportunities.

To learn more about this innovative work, you can stay connected with REACH in a few different ways: 

  1. Follow REACH on Linkedin to share updates with your networks and expand the Collaborative’s visibility. 
  2. Visit the REACH website to find tools you can use to further this work in your state or institution.  
  3. Subscribe to the newsletter to get success stories from REACH colleges and states that inspire and model racial equity in higher education.