The primary purpose of the quality initiative project is to increase student success (e.g., retention, academic achievement, and graduation rates) by increasing the diversity of Eastern Illinois University’s(EIU’s) faculty and staff to levels that are representative of the increasing diversity in our student population.
According to the U.S. Department of Education, in 2018 the national 6-year graduation rate for first-time, full-time (FTFT) undergraduate students who started their bachelor’s degree at a 4-year degree-granting institution in fall 2012 was 62%. This was slightly lower (61%) at public institutions. A significant gap exists by race; White students (64%), Hispanic students (54%), and Black students (40%).
In Illinois, the college completion rate in 2015 at a four-year public institution was about 62% percent. However, African American students were completing at a rate that was 50% that of their White peers, 33.7% compared to 66.4%. Eastern is ahead of many of our peers in this respect, with a graduation rate of 42% for African American students and 52% for Hispanic students in the 2012 cohort, but we know we still must do better.
This project aims to both narrow this achievement gap between African Americans (the largest traditionally underrepresented group) and their White peers, by providing an environment in which they can see themselves reflected in the demographics of the university’s faculty and staff.
Over the last 15 years, Eastern has seen a steady increase in the racial diversity of its students, from 10.5% of students from underrepresented groups in 2005 to 31.5% in fall 2019. In comparison, only 13.8% of the employees (faculty, staff, and administration) in 2019 identified as from underrepresented groups.
At Eastern, the largest increase in underrepresented students has been in those who identify as African American (7% in 2005 to 14.67% in 2020) and Hispanic (2% in 2005 to 11.72% in 2020). Though the student demographics have been changing, the faculty and staff populations have remained predominantly White, creating a growing racial gap between students and those who serve them. This increasing disparity creates an urgent need for the institution to take more aggressive action to create an organization that, both in spirit and in visible presence of people of color in positions of power, reflect our commitment to diversity, inclusion, and equity.
This project will begin with a period of self-study and review of best practices leading to the development of a strategic plan for increasing diversity and inclusion among the faculty and staff, and then will proceed to the implementation of that plan that will lead to increased success of underrepresented student populations. This initiative will begin during the quality initiative period and will continue, at least in part, indefinitely.