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Presented by MSU Denver and the Princeton Prize in Race Relations

The round of applications has been closed for this cycle.

In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, philosophers of the Enlightenment called education “the great equalizer” and pushed for education reform and university access as a means of creating a socially just and productive society.  Flash forward to the early twentieth century, when John Dewey made a plea for a democratic educational process by writing,

It is no accident that all democracies have put a high estimate upon education; that schooling has been their first care and enduring charge. Only through education can equality of opportunity be anything more than a phrase. Accidental inequalities of birth, wealth, and learning are always tending to restrict the opportunities of some as compared with those of others. Only free and continued education can counteract those forces which are always at work to restore, in however changed a form, feudal oligarchy. Democracy has to be born anew every generation, and education is its midwife.  (The Need of an Industrial Education in an Industrial Democracy, 1916)

Despite this long-standing awareness of education as critical to progress and democracy, one of the major problems we still face in the 21st century is access equity in higher education.  As a nation, we have not been able to identify a way to ensure college and university access that supersedes barriers of race, ethnicity, economic status, and citizenship.

The Equity in Excellence committee at the Metropolitan State University of Denver is committed to promoting access and improving outcomes equity for students of color.  In a recent AAC&U publication on equity, “America’s Unmet Promise,”* the authors state that there are five principles that indicate equity in institutional practice and access.  They are:

  1. Clarity in equity language, goals, and measures
  2. Equity-mindedness as the guiding foundation for language and action.
  3. Equitable policies and practices that accommodate differences—not all students are the same.
  4. A continual process of learning, data disaggregation, and questioning of assumptions is required to achieve equity.
  5. Equity must be universally enacted at the institution and system levels. 

MSU Denver is committed to integrating these principles into our work to improve access to higher education.  It is this commitment that led to the development of the Equity Solutions Partnership Grant.

MSU Denver seeks partners in the higher education community and the community at large who can help us to reach our equity goal.  This search for partnership led us to the Princeton Prize in Race Relations committee.  Each year the Princeton Prize in Race Relations recognizes high school students who have made significant strides toward improving race relations at their secondary institution or in their community.  Each year, MSU Denver works diligently to provide equitable access to incoming and continuing students pursuing a baccalaureate degree.  Now, MSU Denver has partnered with the Denver Princeton Prize in Race Relations to solicit innovative solutions from local high school students to help improve equity in access to higher education. 


The Equity Solutions Partnership Grant is awarded to high school students in the Denver Metro area who are interested in making a contribution to solving issues of access to higher education.  Students are invited to submit research-based solutions that serve to improve access for diverse students.  A team of professionals will assist students in creating the solution and eventual implementation of the winning solution.  MSU Denver will award $10,000 toward the implementation of the solution that best serves to improve problems of access equity.

High school students in the seven-county Denver-metro area that MSU Denver primarily serves are invited to apply for this grant.  Applicants must be freshmen, sophomores or juniors (there is an expectation that these leaders will return next year to help sustain the work supported by this award).

Each secondary institution (high school) can sponsor only one team.  However, the number of participating students that comprise the team is unlimited.

Students can submit solutions individually or as a group.  Individuals and groups are required to have a faculty sponsor from their high school.

Students are invited to describe a problem, large or small, that inhibits higher education access equity for students at their school and to identify a possible solution to this problem.  The solution must be a collaborative endeavor.  To devise the solution, students must consult with a department, administrator or unit at MSU Denver, and a representative or representative body from their high school.  Solutions will be designed to improve college access to MSU Denver using equity-minded practice to eliminate barriers, improve policy/practice or reduce misperceptions or exclusive assumptions.

Solutions must have a development and execution deadline of December 31, 2016 (in other words, execution should take place in the Fall 2016 semester, with the project coming to a conclusion by December 31, 2016).

November 30, 2015             Call For Proposals released

February 29, 2016               Submissions of proposals due at 5.00 MST (electronic submission)

March 14, 2016                    Winner is announced

December 31, 2016              Project completion deadline

January 27, 2017                 Final Report due

A total budget of $10,000 will be allocated to the winning project.  This budget cannot be used for compensation of student, faculty or advisor time.  The budget may be transferred to the secondary institution, or it may reside at MSU Denver for appropriate distribution.  The review committee strongly encourages expenditure of the entire $10,000 budget for execution of the project.  For competitive projects that do not receive the grand prize, representatives from MSU Denver will work diligently to identify alternate sources of funding so that the projects may come to fruition.

A final accounting of the prize budget and a narrative report of the implementation of the solution will be expected in January, 2017.


Proposal Review

A committee consisting of members of the community, members of the Denver Princeton Prize in Race Relations committee, and members of the MSU Denver Equity in Excellence committee will review all proposals.  Please see below for a scoring rubric that will guide submission development.

Specific questions regarding the prize or the submission process may be directed to Dr. Lunden MacDonald at

* Witham, K., Malcom-Piqueux, L. E., Dowd, A. C., & Bensimon, E. M. (2015). America's Unmet Promise: The Imperative for Equity in Higher Education. Washington, DC: Association of American Colleges and Universities.

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