PBSC to create Cross-Cultural Equity Institute
Palm Beach State College is planning to establish a Cross-Cultural Equity Institute this year to improve retention and help close the graduation gap for minority students.
The institute will be named after Dr. Barbara Carey-Shuler, a local philanthropist and former longtime educator and elected official, whose generous gift to the College is making it possible. The Dr. Barbara Carey-Shuler Cross-Cultural Equity Institute is expected to be the first of its kind in the Florida College System to address an issue facing community colleges across the state and that is part of the national higher education dialogue.
Overall, the graduation rate for PBSC first-time-in-college students is 41.8 percent, which is higher than the 40% rate for their counterparts in the Florida College System. However, the College wants to ensure that all segments of its student population complete their education at equal rates. According to College data, the graduation rate is 38.6% for black students at PBSC and 41% for Hispanic students, while it is 43.9% for white students. Greater inequities exist at PBSC for black male students, whose graduation rate is 29.3% while it is 41% for Hispanic males as well as for white males. The graduation rate for black females is 44.4% while it is 40.9% for Hispanic females and 47.5 % for white females.
“We all agree that this is something we can improve,’’ said Carey-Shuler of Boynton Beach, a former assistant superintendent for Miami-Dade County Public Schools and a former Miami-Dade County Commissioner who became the first African American woman to serve as chair of the Commission. “I want Palm Beach State College to be a leader in this area because this is not only happening at the College, but it is something you can find around the nation.”
A portion of the second floor of the library will be reconfigured to house the Dr. Barbara Carey-Shuler Cross-Cultural Equity Institute, which will centralize a myriad of services the College already offers, including academic advising, life coaching, peer mentoring and personal counseling, etc. to give the populations of students whose graduation rates lag behind their counterparts more one-on-one tailored support to help them overcome barriers to graduation. The institute will use data-driven research to determine overall best practices to increase retention and graduation rates and formalize the direction for the center.
As part of the initiative, the PBSC Foundation will invest $50,000 to create a scholarship in Carey-Shuler’s name to support students the institute will serve.
Improving equity for all students is a key focus in the College’s strategic plan. Part of improving outcomes and achievement rates means better understanding the barriers that keep some populations from graduating and then developing and implementing specific solutions to overcome them.
“The disparities in our graduation rates are an issue that I have been grappling with since I arrived at Palm Beach State,’’ said PBSC President Ava L. Parker, J.D., who took the helm in 2015. “I am committed to ensuring that all of our students receive equal opportunities to excel. None of us can rest knowing that there are pockets of our students who are not achieving at the same levels of other students. I’m thankful that Dr. Carey-Shuler decided to invest in this initiative and our vision for change as it relates to our students. We must be very strategic and deliberate in improving these statistics.”
Carey-Shuler, who also is a community activist, first took root in South Florida as a longtime educator and politician. The Fernandina Beach, Fla. native is known throughout South Florida for her generosity and commitment to helping the community. A staunch supporter of education, she holds a bachelor’s degree from Florida A&M University, master’s degrees from Ohio State University and the University of Miami and an Educational Specialist degree and doctorate from the University of Florida.
Carey-Shuler said she joined the College in this initiative because Parker indicated that it is a high area of need, and she feels that there are best practices for increasing retention and graduation rates. “There are reasons for the disparities that we must identify and address. The College is going to address this issue in a holistic way.”