Moraine Valley Community College has been named one of 24 two- and four-year public and private nonprofit colleges from across Illinois committed to increasing graduation rates for low-income, first-generation students, and students of color.

The colleges and universities are inaugural participants of the Partnership for College Completion’s newly launched Illinois Equity in Attainment Initiative (ILEA), which pursues a range of institutional program and policy change efforts driven by data and analysis to remove unnecessary hurdles to graduation.

“We are proud to be one of the first colleges participating in this very important initiative to eliminate achievement gaps and thereby increase graduation rates among all of our students. There is strength in numbers and working side-by-side with the other colleges and universities committed to this endeavor means a stronger coalition in the efforts,” said Dr. Sylvia M. Jenkins, Moraine Valley president.

Joining Dr. Jenkins on the college’s team, are core team members Dr. Pamela Haney, vice president, Academic Affairs; Dr. Normah Salleh-Barone, vice president, Student Development; and Dr. Scott Friedman, dean of Student Engagement. Serving on the team also are Neil Barker, assistant professor and coordinator of Integrated Systems Technology, and Tianna Richards, coordinator of Multicultural Student Affairs.

The nonprofit partnership is the only organization in Illinois working with colleges and universities to promote practices, programs and systems-change to ensure low-income, first-generation students graduate from college. The partnership will use its resources and convening power to support the ILEA schools through advocacy in the Illinois legislature and the sharing of data and best-practices from among the colleges around the country that are demonstrating how to eliminate longstanding institutional inequities in degree completion by race and income.

The launch of ILEA comes amidst research identifying large and persistent gaps in college degree completion that fall along socioeconomic and racial lines, said partnership officials. At the same time, there is a continuing decline in enrollment at many of the state’s largest public universities and community colleges. A common theme is higher education affordability, and the state’s primary tuition support grant – the Monetary Award Program (MAP) – has not been fully funded since 2002.

Moraine Valley’s commitment to student completion addresses income gaps with help from its Foundation through scholarships and an emergency fund that provides immediate assistance with other expenses so students do not need to drop out of school. The college also offers financial aid; works with the Illinois Student Assistance Commission to provide students grants; offers student employment opportunities on campus and at nonprofit off-campus locations; and participates in the Chicagoland Regional College Program, which offers assistance with tuition, fees, textbooks and transportation for students who work part-time at United Parcel Service.