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A group of CEOs, community college leaders and state and federal officials is forming a network to develop new strategies to boost Black student enrollment and college completion rates, according to a press release from the group Thursday.

The release noted that U.S. colleges and universities have lost more than 600,000 Black students over the last decade, and over half of those losses were at community colleges.

“The impact of declines in Black students’ enrollment and completion in postsecondary education is felt both on the individual and social levels,” Keith Curry, president of Compton College, said in the release. “State and national economic and social vibrancy suffer. Currently, Black learners lost from the nation’s community college system receive 23% lower pay, on average, than what they would have earned if they had obtained an associate degree.”

Margaret Spellings, former U.S. secretary of education under President George Bush and former chancellor of the University of North Carolina system, said failing to enroll, retain and graduate Black students costs the country $2.9 billion per year in lost wages.

“If every working Black adult with a high school diploma or GED earned as much as the average Black college graduate (at least an associate degree), the collective additional earnings would equal an estimated $222 billion more,” she said, referring to those workers’ lifetime earnings.