Equity-Driven Systems: Student Equity and Achievement in the California Community Colleges

Diversity and Equity
Executive Committee


The Academic Senate for California Community Colleges (ASCCC) plays a central role in partnering with and challenging system stakeholders to create excellence through diversity and equity in California’s community colleges. The role of academic senates is to provide advice and recommendations regarding academic and professional matters that best serve the needs of students and communities through the expertise of the educational professionals of the colleges. Every system of bureaucracy, including the California Community Colleges, reflects the biases present upon that system’s creation. The role of the local academic senate, in partnership with other constituent groups of a college, is to identify and deeply examine those biases and correct them through structural change, professional development, and re-imagining how colleges serve the students and communities of today most effectively. While this paper is intended for local academic senates, it also provides a framework and suggested action to begin or continue the task of shifting the cultures and mindsets of community college institutions.

During the last three decades, a tremendous increase has occurred across several dimensions of diversity among student populations. While diversity and equity goals have remained systemic priorities, efforts such as large-scale initiatives, increased professional development, enhancements in technology, changes in legislation, augmented funding, and progressive social norms, have only led to relatively small gains in student success outcomes and proportional faculty representation in California’s community colleges. As a result, opportunity gaps for many student populations still exist.

Students, and the landscape that they must navigate in order to achieve their goals, are changing rapidly. Who they are, how they identify, and what colleges need to do to help them succeed is evolving at a hastened pace. Academic institutions need to ensure that programs, departments, teaching, counseling, and other services meet the needs of all of students, particularly those who are disproportionately impacted and whose needs are currently not being met through current structures.

Today’s students may endure the distress of hunger and homelessness, immigration status-related issues, mental health needs, discrimination, hate and bias, gender related concerns, sexual harassment, and more in society and within institutions. Students are intersectional; they face oppression on a variety of fronts including ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, immigration status, income status, physical ability, and mental health issues, among many others.

The community college system in California owes all students an excellent educational opportunity and outcome. To this end, an intentional, systematic approach to address the contemporary and historical context of institutions and current student needs requires a paradigm shift as colleges are constantly responding to various inner and outer accountability measures such as legislation, the funding formula, large-scale initiatives, and accreditation. This paper elaborates on the definition of equity, developing equity-mindedness, and what being an equity-driven system means. In addition, the paper endeavors to focus on institutions and integrating equity planning holistically to emphasize that equity is not a separate program but rather should be embedded in the missions of institutions. The recommendations set forth in this paper will help faculty and other stakeholders lead critical conversations, engage in action-oriented decision-making processes, and open the possibility for infusing equity throughout institutions and decision-making processes.

Publication file