FACT SHEET: U.S. Department of Education Releases 2023 Update to Equity Action Plan, Outlines New Commitments to Advance Equity

FACT SHEET: U.S. Department of Education Releases 2023 Update to Equity Action Plan, Outlines New Commitments to Advance Equity

February 14, 2024

The U.S. Department of Education (Department) today released its 2023 Update to its Equity Action Plan, in coordination with the Biden-Harris Administration's whole-of-government equity agenda. This Equity Action Plan is part of the Department's efforts to implement the President's Executive Order on "Further Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through The Federal Government," which reaffirmed the Administration's commitment to deliver equity and build an America in which all can participate, prosper, and reach their full potential.  

The Department believes that our nation's future is brighter when we provide every student and every community with equitable access to an academically rigorous, well-rounded education in a safe and inclusive school. We are answering President Biden's call to prioritize equity across government by working intentionally to ensure our policies, grants, and programs address longstanding disparities in education still faced by underserved students, families, and communities.

The Department has identified five areas of focus for its 2023 Equity Action Plan through visits to communities, listening sessions and roundtables with people impacted by or interested in these issues, grantee and research community discussions, Tribal consultations, formal written invitations for comment, and more. The Department will continue to engage the public on these action areas, its progress, and next steps throughout the year and beyond. Those are:

  • Improve college access, affordability, and degree completion for underserved students to increase economic mobility. The Department aims to address barriers to college access, affordability, and completion by supporting colleges to enroll more students from underserved groups, including students of color, students from low-income backgrounds, students who are English learners, and others to raise graduation rates and close graduation rate gaps for these student populations, and offer affordable credentials of value that lead to careers offering economic mobility. 
  • Implement Maintenance of Equity requirements to ensure historically underserved students have equitable resources for learning recovery. The Department aims to ensure that school districts serving historically underserved student groups, including students of color, students from low-income backgrounds, students who are English learners, students experiencing homelessness, and others have the resources they need to support learning recovery. This includes the allocation of $122 billion in American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds for Title I schools, and the ARP's Maintenance of Equity requirements to protect high poverty schools from reductions in State and local education funding. 
  • Address inequities faced by justice-impacted individuals by expanding access to postsecondary learning opportunities that improve outcomes for communities and reduce recidivism rates. The Department aims to ensure that our society is more just and equitable through supporting better opportunities for education during periods of incarceration and post-release. Current initiatives are set to improve the well-being of people who are incarcerated and increase successful reentry outcomes, smoothing pathways to further education, increasing workforce readiness and engagement, and reducing recidivism and preventing crime. This includes the partnerships that exist between institutions of higher education, correctional agencies, accrediting agencies, and community-based organizations. 
  • Advance equity in and through career and technical education. The Department aims to invest in career and technical education to create new and inclusive pathways to well-paying jobs and upward mobility. This includes leveraging data to promote strategies that reduce segregation by gender, race, and ethnicity in high school career and technical education (CTE) programs. 
  • Increase mental health resources with an emphasis on underserved communities, from the historic legislation and funding provided by the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act. The Department aims to address the youth mental health crisis by working with states to support local educational agencies (LEAs) with high rates of poverty through three top priorities: (1) increasing the skills and knowledge of existing school personnel to support the mental health needs of students; (2) increasing the supply of mental health professionals who can work with students; and (3) increasing funding through the Medicaid program to support school health services, including mental health services. 

As noted in the 2023 update, since the release of its first-ever Equity Action Plan in 2022, the Department has taken bold action to advance equity including, the highlights below:

  • Promoted Educational Opportunity and Diversity in Colleges and Universities: In the wake of the Supreme Court ruling last summer limiting the ability of colleges to consider an applicant's race in and of itself as a factor in deciding whether to admit an applicant, the Department provided colleges and universities with guidance on what admissions practices and programs remain lawful to ensure diversity, convened a National Summit on Educational Opportunity, and released a report on strategies for increasing diversity and educational opportunity. 
  • Awarded over $40 million in GEAR UP and TRIO Upward Bound grants in FY 2023 for programs focused on helping low-income students, first-generation students, and students with disabilities gain access to college. 
  • Approved additional debt relief through fixes to income-drive repayment (IDR) and Public Student Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) programs and granting automatic relief for borrowers with total and permanent disabilities, bringing the total approved debt cancellation to more than $127 billion for more than 3.6 million Americans. 
  • Rolled out implementation of the SAVE plan this fall, which is the most affordable repayment plan ever created, and has already enrolled more than 4 million borrowers. Re-launched the Raise the Bar: Attaining College Excellence & Equity initiative with a summit this spring focused on data-driven improvement efforts to equitably increase completion rates for students of color and low-income students. 
  • Funded 264 grants with $1 billion in Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA) funds to more than 40 states to increase the supply of school-based mental health professionals under the School-Based Mental Health Services Grant and the Mental Health Services Professional Demonstration (MHSPD) Grant Program. 
  • Reminded schools of their legal obligations to address discrimination, and issued Guiding Principles for creating safe, inclusive, supportive, and fair school climates. Additionally, the Department released a Resource Document on confronting racial discrimination in student discipline, and a Toolkit for creating inclusive and nondiscriminatory school environments for LGBTQI+ students. 

The Department's "Raise the Bar: Lead the World" agenda tackles these inequities head on with an emphasis on accelerating learning in our schools, strengthening supports for students' mental health and wellbeing, empowering educators and multilingual learners, and reimagining pathways to college and careers. Together, we can build an education system that ensures all students have opportunities to discover their passion, find their purpose, and realize their potential. 

As this work continues, updates will be posted here. Learn more about the Administration's equity work at whitehouse.gov/equity and check out all Federal Equity Action Plans at performance.gov/equity.  

To follow stories and posts across agencies, follow the hashtags #GovEquity and #GovDelivers on social media.