Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education

CPE diversity measures show continued commitment by campuses

June 30, 2020

Student in class
Photo credit: Kentucky State University

The Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education (CPE) has released a new report showing that the Council's statewide diversity policy continues to drive progress at public colleges and universities across the commonwealth.

Adopted in 2016, the Kentucky Public Postsecondary Education Policy for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion calls on campuses to create an inclusive environment that produces culturally competent graduates and promotes academic success for all students. CPE evaluates state campuses each year based on metrics that align with the policy and the state's overall strategic agenda for higher education.

The latest report shows that seven of the state's eight public universities, along with all 16 colleges in the Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS), met or exceeded policy requirements during the 2018-19 academic year.

"Campuses are dedicating significant time and resources to embrace these goals, and we are encouraged by their progress," said CPE President Aaron Thompson. "Higher education doesn't just matter to a few, it matters to all. And it's key to addressing all the other disparities in our society."

CPE evaluated all public, four-year institutions and KCTCS institutions in a number of critical areas. Metrics included undergraduate and graduate enrollment, workforce diversity, retention rates, graduation rates and the number of degrees completed by both underrepresented minorities and low-income students.

CPE also looked at three focus areas: opportunity, success and impact. Campuses were required to submit a plan that sets goals and identifies strategies for each focus area. They received scores based on whether they implemented the strategies with fidelity and whether the strategies proved effective. Campuses were also required to analyze lessons learned from the process and propose next steps.

Higher education doesn't just matter to a few, it matters to all. And it's key to addressing all the other disparities in our society. - Aaron Thompson

Dawn Offutt, director of initiatives for diversity, equity and inclusion at CPE, said public institutions have worked hard over the past two years to ensure their strategies are both streamlined and achievable.

"We are seeing a robust commitment to very specific goals, and that provides for stronger, more equitable campuses along with a more diverse workforce," she said. "More and more careers are demanding an emphasis on cultural competency, so it's essential that we advance those lessons at every level."

Institutions that fail to meet the minimum standards on diversity, equity and inclusion lose automatic eligibility to offer new academic programs and must develop a performance improvement plan. It must identify issues that led to the institution not meeting the required minimums and describe positive steps moving forward.

Three campuses that fell short during the last evaluation – Western Kentucky University, Kentucky State University and Maysville Community and Technical College – all showed significant improvements and met the standards in 2018-19.

In the meantime, CPE has ramped up initiatives to support diversity, equity and inclusion across the college system.

The Council held its Higher EDquity Symposium in November, providing a forum for discussion and professional development around current trends and issues. Close to 200 faculty, students and staff participated. As a follow-up, CPE is hosting a Higher EDquity webinar series, and so far, topics have included recent social injustices, inclusive online instruction and improving equity in fall 2020.

In addition, CPE has launched a resource hub on its website, offering articles, webinars and other information about diversity, equity and inclusion during COVID-19.

The Council has also received a grant from the Lumina Foundation to promote cultural competency and reinstate the Academic Leadership Development Institute, a professional learning community of early career, underrepresented minority faculty and staff who are interested in future administrative leadership positions.

"These goals aren't achievable in a vacuum," said Travis Powell, vice president and general counsel for CPE. "We want campuses to be thinking about diversity, equity and inclusion in all aspects of institutional operations, and CPE is tapping as many resources as possible to support progress across the system."

Last Updated: 7/20/2021