Statement on the U.S. Department of Education's Student Success Focus

August 24, 2022

The National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education applauds recent comments by Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona regarding college rankings and the U.S. Department of Education’s renewed commitment to student success through the creation of its College Completion Fund grant program and the expansion of its Project Success initiative.

Too often, institutions are celebrated for the measures that matter least: prestige, clout, brand recognition. We need to evaluate higher ed through a new lens: How well are institutions educating students and fostering economic mobility, particularly for students from less-affluent or historically marginalized backgrounds? 

Historically Black colleges and universities, Hispanic-serving institutions, tribal colleges, Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-serving institutions, and other minority-serving institutions have consistently facilitated opportunities for students. Community colleges, too, are engines of mobility, and we are heartened by the Department of Education’s prioritization of these institutions for grant money, particularly as they face challenging enrollment declines due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

These institutions that serve the greatest number of underrepresented students have been ignored by rankings and other measures of prestige due to their lack of resources. The new and expanded Department of Education initiatives, combined with recently announced changes to the Carnegie Classifications to better recognize social mobility, signal a promising shift in how higher education recognizes and rewards institutional efforts to support students, and in particular students from historically marginalized communities. 

Yet there is much more to be done. As practitioners and scholars of diversity, equity, and inclusion, we are committed to advancing this work and to showing our appreciation for others who join and lead in these efforts. We must equate prestige with equity, not with privilege and affluence. 


The National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education (NADOHE) is the preeminent voice for chief diversity officers. As the leader of the national conversation on diversity, equity, and inclusion, it investigates, influences, and innovates to transform higher education so that inclusive excellence lives at its core.