Minority graduation rates earn top rankings

The University of Missouri–St. Louis ranks number one among public research institutions for closing its graduation rate gap for minority students. In the same study, UMSL ranks fifth among 25 institutions in its improvement of minority graduation rates.

The findings are contained in two briefs, “Top Gap Closers” and “Top Gainers” released recently by the Access to Success Initiative sponsored by Education Trust and the National Association of System Heads. Gary Forsee, president of the University of Missouri System is one of 24 leaders of large state public universities participating in the initiative. UMSL is one of four campuses that make up the UM System.

Education leaders in the initiative agreed to pursue aggressive goals for improving student success and cutting in half by 2015 the gaps in college attendance and graduation that separate low-income and minority students from their peers.

The preliminary study, which provides a base for the A2S Initiative, looked at graduation rates between 2002 and 2007. It provides a baseline for colleges seeking to raise the graduation rates of minority students, which include African-American, Hispanic and Native-American students. The findings indicate schools, such as UMSL, have a head start on the improvement process.

In 2002, UMSL’s six-year graduation rate gap between minority students and their white and Asian counterparts was 23.1 percent. By 2007 the gap had closed to 10.8 percent, a drop of 12.3 percent.  During that same period, UMSL’s minority graduation rate jumped from 16.5 to 33.3 percent, an increase of 16.8 percent.

“We are very pleased with these results,” said UMSL Chancellor Tom George. “They indicate that colleges can indeed cut achievement gaps. We have been looking at increasing graduation rates for all students, and will institute a new campuswide student success program this summer focusing on student success from recruitment to graduation. As a result, we expect our numbers to improve even further over the next few years.”

Glen Cope, provost and vice chancellor of academic affairs, said every facet of a student’s education is being studied and improved.

“It’s our goal to identify and eliminate all impediments to graduation,” Cope said. “We’ll see changes in curriculum and recruitment tactics. Campus tours will be revamped. Orientation and advising will improve and there will be more scholarships. And it will be a campuswide effort.”

Each year, nearly 400,000 minority students enroll as freshmen in a four-year college. In Missouri, as in many other states, they have overcome underfunded high schools, daunting financial circumstances and an intimidating college admissions process. Despite their persistence in overcoming these barriers, more than half don’t attain their goal – a bachelor’s degree – even after six years.

For more information on the A2S Initiative and NASH visit: http://www.nashonline.org/Initiatives.html.


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