Equity in Enrollment, Persistence, and Affordability


Research shows that completing some form of postsecondary credentialing improves lifetime earnings, creates stronger community engagement, and leads to greater personal growth and fulfillment. While Rhode Island has committed to raising attainment rates to 70% by 2025, attainment gaps still exist for Black and Latinx students. Further, more work is needed to fill the financial void that has arisen for middle and low-income individuals who do not qualify for Pell Grants, adult-learning students, and Black and Latinx students. Supporting high students enrolled in dual credit and dual enrollment programs and providing financial support to students who need it are strategies to increase attendance and persistence.



Equity in Rhode Island’s Postsecondary Education System

While equality means treating every student the same, equity refers to making sure every student has the support, resources, and opportunities to be successful. To create equity in education, systems must be structured to ensure every student has an equal chance for success. Discussion on this topic will include an analysis of the current state of equity in the Rhode Island postsecondary education system, the current barriers to equity that exist, and ways to provide more equity and opportunity to any student entering the education system.


Affordability and Its Role in Equity

Affordability is described as not just the cost of tuition but all the other costs and fees associated with postsecondary education and credentials. Often these non-tuition costs are less predictable and create barriers to affordability that are especially present in low-income and underrepresented communities. Discussion for this topic will focus on how to make postsecondary education affordable for ALL types of students and how fixing the affordability gap will support the goal of creating equity in Rhode Island’s postsecondary system.


Scott Jenkins

Scott Jenkins is the strategy director for state policy at Lumina Foundation, an independent, private foundation in Indianapolis that is committed to making opportunities for learning beyond high school available to all. In that role, he leads the development and advancement of the foundation’s state policy agenda. Jenkins has a broad and extensive background in institutional, state, and federal policy development and execution. Before joining Lumina, he served as education policy director to two governors; as director of external relations for Western Governors University; and as a deputy assistant secretary in the U.S. Department of Education in the George W. Bush administration. Jenkins holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Central Florida.

Sylvia Spears

Dr. Sylvia Spears is vice president for administration & innovation, and distinguished professor of educational equity and social justice at College Unbound, Providence, which she joined in August. College Unbound is an accredited degree-completion institution focused on equity and community engagement. Previously, she was vice president for diversity & inclusion at Emerson College, Boston, a position she held for nine years. There, she helped the college implement new diversity initiatives aimed at driving excellence in inclusiveness. She served as chair of the college’s sexual assault task force and helped create policies on sexual misconduct, Title IX, interpersonal violence, and others. She has held senior leadership positions at Dartmouth College and New England College, and earned her doctoral degree at the University of Rhode Island in its joint program in education with Rhode Island College.