Aerial view of UCSB
Paul Wellman

In a comparison of graduation rates between white and black students at 450 four-year colleges, The Education Trust issued a report in March that includes UCSB among the schools with increases in undergraduate degrees awarded to African American students over the decade from 2003-2013. It also analyzed what two schools, Ohio State in Columbus and Lubbock’s Texas Tech University, had done to win double-digit increases.

UCSB, which graduated 74.1 percent of “underrepresented students” (or students of African American, Latino, or Native American heritage) in 2013 compared to 69.4 percent in 2003, graduated white students by percentages of 83.1 and 78.7 in those years, respectively. The increase over the decade was roughly the same for both groups: about 4 percent. For black students alone, however, the report, titled Rising Tide II, detailed that in 2013, 72.2 percent walked the line, a rise of 9.3 percent since 2003. That was double the average institution in the study. To be included, a school had to have 30 or more first-time, full-time black students and the same for white students.

The first Rising Tide study released in December found that Latino students showed the best increases — 7.4 percent — among the two-thirds of colleges that improved all graduation rates. Native Americans went up 6.4 percent and black graduates by 4.4 percent across all schools included.

The examination of what the schools in Columbus and Lubbock had done to keep their students all the way to receiving degrees highlighted commonalities in social integration, scholarships, and mentoring beyond the freshman year. Ohio State reached out to students as early as middle school, making sure the kids — 75 percent of whom were black — were taking classes that would get them into a four-year college. Its Young Scholars Program provided scholarships and met with freshmen for on-campus support during their arrival. The school retreats — first for black men and more recently for “women of color” — began as a way to personalize the extensive campus and give the undergrads a chance to discuss their experiences. The men’s retreat at the Bell Center has expanded to a national dialogue, most recently on racial injustice, money, and police. Ohio State’s black graduation rate rose 25.6 percent during the decade.

At Texas Tech, mentors provide a link for new students with the Lubbock community, churches, and school life. The school looks at hobbies and interests as well as race and gender when matching the pairs. They meet at least twice a month, and Mentor Tech holds events as often as twice a week. “Free food doesn’t hurt,” said Paul Frazier, an associate vice president for the schools institutional diversity division, in describing attendance at workshops to promote careers and meet professionals. Lubbock’s graduation rate rose 19 percent over the decade for black students, and 13 percent for Latino students.

The report also pointed out schools with lagging graduation rates, UC Davis among them, which had 7.7 percent fewer black students graduating over the decade.

Although The Education Trust expressed disappointment that graduation rates for African American students were no higher, it did find 70 percent of the schools in the sample had increased black graduation, and about half were closing the gap between blacks and whites. Substantial gains were clearly being made in 52 of the colleges studied, said authors Andrew Howard Nichols, Kimberlee Eberle-Sudré, and Meredith Welch, but black graduation results continue to trail white results nationwide.


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