Mercy College Participates in U.S. Department of Education “Raise the B.A.R” in College Excellence and Equity Summit

Raise the bar conference

On May 1, 2023, Mercy College participated in the U.S. Department of Education’s second Raise the B.A.R. (Bold + Action + Results) in College Excellence and Equity Summit, a meeting of select educational institutions from across the country recognized for using data-driven strategies to better serve students, reduce equity gaps and lift graduation rates. The full-day event brought together leaders, researchers and student success advocates from colleges, universities and other organizations to share insights, experiences and best practices for improving outcomes for today’s students. 

Representing Mercy College was Matt Presser, assistant vice president of Institutional Research and Innovation, who spoke on a panel titled “Centering Strategic Plans on Equitable Student Outcomes” along with Harrison Keller, commissioner of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, and Jose Luis Cruz Rivera, president of Northern Arizona University. 

During the panel discussion, Presser highlighted Mercy’s success in improving student retention and graduation rates. “Mercy has implemented strategies that have dramatically improved outcomes, especially for students of color, in ways other institutions have not yet succeeded in doing,” Presser said. “It’s very exciting that Mercy has earned a seat at the table to tell our story on a national stage.” 

For example, through the use of a set of equity-driven, evidence-based, and scalable initiatives that comprise the Mercy Success Toolkit, Mercy College has closed long-standing gaps in outcomes along lines of race, tripled the percentage of freshmen completing the gateway English course sequence during their first year, and now graduates more Black students with bachelors’ degrees than all but three other private in-person colleges in the country. Recently, Mercy earned recognition as the first private college in the nation to earn the Seal of Excelencia for the College’s success in serving Latino students as measured by data, practice and leadership benchmarks. 

Throughout the day’s events, participants offered candid reflections about the challenges of accessing and using data as a tool to promote student success. Presser joined in discussions with attendees from prestigious institutions, such as Georgia State University and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, to examine new ways of making vast data resources available to inform strategic planning. 

Being asked to participate in a national summit to which only 30 institutions were invited, said Presser, “Shows that Mercy is being recognized as a college on the cutting edge.” In his opening remarks, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona referred to the colleges in the room, whose efforts are leading to increased rates of success for their students: “They are catalyzing economic mobility for students who are too often left behind by our higher education system.”  

Presser said that, while attending the summit, Mercy students never strayed far from his mind. “At Mercy, we have the opportunity to change students’ lives in a way that’s not possible elsewhere, yet we must always recognize that they could have chosen to go elsewhere. We owe it to them to work as hard as we can to improve student success. It’s an immense responsibility, but it’s also a privilege to know that students are entrusting their futures to us. They are the motivation, for me and for so many of my colleagues at Mercy College, to continue raising the bar.” 

To learn more about Mercy’s scalable, evidence-based strategies that drive increased rates of achievement for all students, please click here to view the Mercy College Student Success Tooklit 2.0.