Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Closing the Achievement Gap

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Closing the Achievement Gap

Article excerpt

There is a national crisis in American higher education, and it threatens to exacerbate the most pressing challenges facing our nation. Consider this sobering fact--for every 10 African-American students who enter college, only four will graduate. Just four in 10. That is a shameful record, and we cannot hope to address the underlying causes of social and economic inequality in our country if this trend continues.

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College enrollment in the U.S. continues to stand at record highs. According to the U.S. Department of Education, U.S. colleges and universities enrolled 20.5 million students last fall, an increase of 5.2 million students compared to 2000. This upward trend is likewise true across ethnic categories. Between 2000 and 2014 (the latest year for which we have national data on ethnicity), undergraduate enrollment among African-American students increased a phenomenal 57 percent, and enrollment among Latino students more than doubled.

But, as a college degree has become a prerequisite for getting into the middle class and beyond, enrollment is not enough. In the marketplace, job applicants with some or no college will lose out to a college graduate almost every time. Additionally, students who do not complete their degrees often face thousands of dollars in debt without the means to repay it. USA Today reported last year that students who drop out of college are four times more likely to default on their student loans compared to those who graduated. If six in 10 African-American students aren't completing their degrees, it doesn't take much to see the ramifications for individuals, communities and the entire nation.

Fortunately, there is hope. A report issued earlier this year by the Education Trust, a national nonprofit organization that advocates for academic success, demonstrated that the derisible national data aren't uniform across the nation's colleges and universities. Some institutions have demonstrated considerable success in eliminating the achievement gaps across ethnic and socioeconomic designations. While the success stories are heartening, the report shows just how far we still must go. Out of 676 universities considered, only 55 had been able to completely eliminate the graduation rate achievement gap between African-American and White students.

As chancellor of one of the institutions highlighted by the Education Trust as a success story, I wanted to share a few strategies that have helped us eliminate graduation rate gaps across ethnic and socioeconomic categories. …

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