The events of 2020 have shown that racial equality and economic opportunity can’t wait: The coronavirus continues to have a disproportionate impact on Black and Hispanic-Latino communities, and the spotlight on racial injustices further underscores the need for action. Access to good jobs and meaningful careers are key to closing the racial wealth gap, but students from these communities face daunting challenges ranging from financial hardship to lack of guidance in choosing courses that will help them achieve success.
To address these issues—and building on its ongoing work to address the underlying challenges facing people and communities of color—Bank of America has committed $25 million to provide Black and Hispanic-Latino students opportunities to develop the skills and networks needed to succeed. The initiative, part of the Bank’s $1 billion, four-year commitment to advance racial equality and economic opportunity, features partnerships with 21 higher education institutions. These include 11 community colleges that predominantly serve students from local communities, as well as six Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and four public Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs).
Keeping eyes on the prize
A central goal of the initiative is to help ensure that enrolled students are able to complete their studies and obtain meaningful jobs. Nationally, just 40% of community college students graduate, and the rates are lower still amongst Black and Hispanic-Latino students, at 28.8% and 37.1% respectively.foot note1“Making sure students get through their first year is key to increasing graduation rates,” says Dr. Tony Allen, President of Delaware State University, one of the participating institutions. “If we can get them through the first year, graduation rates jump to over 80%.”
Additionally, the Black and Hispanic-Latino students who attend one of Dallas College’s seven campuses in Dallas County, TX, will receive career-connected learning experiences when they enroll. “We are preparing our students with relevant skills as well as degrees,” says Dr. Pyeper Wilkins, Vice Chancellor, Workforce & Advancement of Dallas College. “Our partners—private companies of all sizes and across many industries in and around Dallas—are in need of such graduates.”
New skills for new jobs
Over four years, each partner institution will develop new or enhance existing programs to meet specific skills gaps in order to create higher-paying, family-sustaining, in-demand local jobs. Programming will include financial coaching, enhanced career guidance and course selection counseling to help students complete their degrees. Bank of America will work alongside major employers in each market to ensure these programs target specific hiring needs and create clearly defined career pathways, while also helping companies grow a diverse employee base.
As an additional resource for the schools, Bank of America is partnering with the Aspen Institute to provide technical assistance and share best practices between the participating institutions. This learning hub model can help the schools improve career guidance, increase hiring connections while also supporting student financial stability and peer learning—“All with the goal of helping connect young people to high-wage jobs and reduce racial income and wealth gaps,” says Dan Porterfield, President and CEO of the Aspen Institute.
“Career opportunities are a critical pillar in addressing the racial wealth gap in our country,” said Bank of America Vice Chairman Anne Finucane. “A meaningful job opportunity goes beyond the paycheck – it is a pathway to reduce student debt, obtain health care and retirement benefits, and ultimately, build net worth. The collaborative training approach we are taking with this initiative will not only impact the lives of Black and Hispanic-Latino students, but will enable them to make real and meaningful impact in their communities now and in the years ahead.”
Supporting job creation and employment in communities of color is a key part of Bank of America’s $1 billion commitment to racial equality and economic opportunity. Of that total, $300 million will be directed across four areas: Jobs initiatives in Black and Hispanic-Latino communities; community outreach; direct investments to Minority Depository Institutions, and equity funding for minority entrepreneurs, businesses and funds.
Learn more about Bank of America’s commitments to promote racial equality and economic opportunity, including support for local communities across the country as they navigate impacts of the coronavirus.