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Brittany Francis

Complete College America releases a new playbook to help colleges benchmark for equity, implement strategies proven to improve equity in student outcomes

 JUNE 16, 2022

INDIANAPOLIS — Complete College America (CCA), a national non-profit organization working to raise postsecondary attainment in the United States, released a new report that urges colleges to take a stronger stance on addressing the root causes of inequity in higher education, based on race, income and other factors. Entitled “No Middle Ground: Advancing Equity through Practice”, the report draws on more than a decade of research and evidence-based practice to provide a toolkit with reform strategies that colleges can use to advance equity in higher education and improve outcomes for historically excluded students.

“Now is the time to take a bold stance on equity–there is no room to stay on the sidelines. The only way for states and higher educational institutions to achieve the ambitious attainment goals laid out over the past decade is to sharpen their focus on students who are being left behind,” said Dr. Yolanda Watson Spiva, president of Complete College America, and a veteran educator and higher education administrator. “This publication will help colleges first identify the structural factors that contribute to equity in student outcomes—and then implement the reforms needed to make them a reality on more campuses.”

Study after study continues to find significant disparities in student outcomes based on race, income, gender and other demographics. Fully 71% of Black first-time students are enrolled in remedial courses compared to 54% of their White peers. Three in four first-generation students and students from under-resourced families do not start a job related to their studies or enter graduate school when they leave college. More than 90% of students from under-resourced families do not graduate within six years–let alone four. Although there is no reliable source of data on four-year college completion rates disaggregated by race and ethnicity, 6-year graduation rates for Black and Latinx students stand at 51.5%, lower than graduation rates for White students. 

To help improve college completion rates for students from historically underserved backgrounds, the publication calls on states, systems of higher education and institutions to implement targeted strategies proven to eliminate disparities in student outcomes. The report lays out four “pillars” of success–Purpose, Structure, Momentum, and Support—that are essential to building a more equity-focused system of higher education. As an evolution of the organization’s widely-adopted Game Changer strategies, the report offers institutions a cohesive set of equity reforms using strategies that have been rigorously tested by Complete College America Alliance members over the last decade.

“At a time when an ever-growing number of jobs require some level of education and training beyond high school, strengthening higher education opportunities for all is a workforce, economic and civic imperative,” said Dr. Maria Markham, director of the Arkansas Division of Higher Education. “This report presents a compelling case for state and institutional leaders to act with greater urgency to ensure that students from every background have the opportunity to access and complete college or a workforce-relevant credential.”

The release of the new report builds on a series of ambitious new initiatives recently launched by Complete College America focused on improving equity in higher education outcomes for students from under-resourced and historically excluded backgrounds. In May 2022, Complete College America announced the selection of Arkansas, Oklahoma and Montana as members of its Policy, Equity & Practice Network, a program funded by Ascendium Education Group which convenes 34 institutions of higher education to help eliminate college completion disparities among students from historically underserved communities. 

For more on Complete College America’s work and to read the entire “No Middle Ground” report, visit


About Complete College America: Complete College America (CCA) builds movements for scaled change and transforms institutions through data-driven policies, student-centered perspectives, and equity-driven practices. Since its founding in 2009, CCA connects a national network of forward-thinking state and higher education leaders and introduces bold initiatives to help states and institutions confront inequities, close institutional performance gaps, and increase college completion rates, especially for marginalized and historically excluded students. For more information, visit