Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Moon Goal for Colleges: Retention of Diverse Students

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Moon Goal for Colleges: Retention of Diverse Students

Article excerpt

America's colleges and universities have made significant strides in recruiting students of color in the last four decades. In an era when the nations demographics are shifting rapidly, that is as it should be.

The U.S. Census Bureau projects that sometime within the next three or four decades people of color will exceed 50 percent of the U.S. population. These changes present opportunities for our colleges and universities in this ever-shifting higher education landscape, particularly as many grapple with enrollment shortfalls and strive to reinvent themselves.

They also present significant challenges to many institutions.

A 2011 analysis of graduation data of 456 colleges and universities by the Washington, D.C.-based Education Trust Fund found a troubling racial gap in graduation rates.

According to the report, 73.4 percent of White students at private institutions earned their degrees within six years, compared to only 54.7 percent of Black students and 62.9 percent of Hispanic students.

The data makes clear something many of us already know: increasingly universities must work just as hard at retaining students of diverse backgrounds as recruiting them.

I believe the colleges that will thrive in the coming years will be those that excel at preparing people of diverse backgrounds for successful careers and that have carefully cultivated a competitive academic advantage that distinguishes them from their competitors. Adopting such a strategy enables universities to be creative in developing academic programs that are relevant to the needs of students and the marketplace. It also staves off a copycat mentality. Sadly, too many colleges still attempt to imitate their peers rather than reposition themselves by playing up their competitive advantage--what they do better than others.

Notre Dame de Namur, a 163-yearold Catholic college in the San Francisco Bay Area, is just one college that has successfully developed and capitalized on a niche. By 2007, the colleges enrollment had plummeted to 1,300, its lowest in recent history. To address the problem, the college adopted a strategic plan that included becoming a Hispanic-serving institution. …

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