Last week, President José Luis Cruz Rivera joined more than 50 leaders of higher education in Washington, D.C., for the Raise the B.A.R. in College Excellent and Equity Summit, a national collaborative effort to improve outcomes for all students at colleges and universities throughout the United States.
Spearheaded by Education Secretary Miguel Cardona and attended by leaders of more than 40 American colleges and universities, Raise the B.A.R. (which stands for Bold+Action+Results) is closely aligned with NAU’s vision articulated in Elevating Excellence, with an emphasis on equity, economic and social mobility, student success and college completion, and delivering transformative value to learners of all backgrounds and from all walks of life. Cruz Rivera presented on using data to improve outcomes and empower student success.
“In my career in higher education, I have seen firsthand how crucial it is to use institutional data to inform student success and equity initiatives,” Cruz Rivera said. “It was a privilege to join the Education Department and colleagues across the country to share some of our own work that is at the leading edge of a national agenda to advance value and equity and learn and collaborate with others to advance this crucial work in higher education.”
The summit, during which Cardona announced a $5 million investment to support a new College Completion Fund for Postsecondary Student Success, was a step toward “leveling up” the U.S. higher education system and help more students from historically underrepresented and underserved communities finish their degrees.
“For far too long, our higher education system has left our nation’s most accessible, inclusive colleges without adequate resources to support student success, while many institutions chase rankings that reward privilege and selectivity over equity and upward mobility,” Cardona said. “Reimagining higher education means rejecting a status quo in which so many students earn some college credits but no degree, leaving them with student debt they cannot afford and less access to good-paying jobs.”
NAU, which is a designated Hispanic-Serving Institution, has taken numerous specific steps under Cruz Rivera’s leadership to increase access to higher education, including Access2Excellence, which offers a tuition-free education to Arizona students from households with up to $65,000 in annual income, the Admissions Pilot program, and focusing one-time funding from the Arizona Board of Regents and the NAU Foundation on efforts to expand student opportunities, establish collaborative partnerships and recruit highly qualified faculty.
Cruz Rivera has been active in national efforts to increase student access and success to a quality higher education; in March, he testified before a House subcommittee about the critical need for increased access to students from historically underserved communities. These efforts not only improve the lives of students and their families but also helps strengthen the U.S. and Arizona economies and contributes to a healthy society.
“Thanks to Secretary Miguel Cardona and Under Secretary James Kvaal for a most productive day at the U.S. Department of Education,” Cruz Rivera said. “It was great to connect with CUNY chancellor Félix V. Matos Rodríguez, AASCU President Mildred García and higher ed leaders from throughout the country who seek to raise the bar for a better future. At NAU, we are ready for the hard but important work ahead.”