Report Shows Programs to Improve College Access Are Working

A new report from The Education Trust finds that programs aimed at increasing college access and graduation rates among black and Latino students are having a positive effect. The thorough analysis that puts almost every single American college and university against its peers based on its diversity programs has now been updated on the group’s website with the latest round of data courtesy of the U.S. Department of Education.

The latest release of the country’s education data was also an occasion for the publication of a mini-brief titled “Intentionally Successful: Improving Minority Student College Graduation Rates” which details schools that have had the most success in closing access and achievement gaps between their white and minority students.

According to the brief, the number of black and Latino students enrolling in college has grown at a faster pace when compared to white students. Likewise, the number of minority college graduates is also in the rise, though the increase is still lower than the overall growth.

Underneath these averages, though, some colleges are dispelling the myth that student characteristics effectively determine graduation rates. In fact, if more colleges can match improvement patterns seen at leading institutions with similar demographics, closing the college opportunity and completion gap is within reach.

Clearly, the demographics of higher education are changing. Between 2009 and 2011, the number of black undergraduates grew by 8.5 percent and the number of Latino undergraduates by 22 percent, while white enrollment grew by only 2.7 percent. Over the same time period, graduation rates also went up: Both white and black graduation rates increased by 2 percent, while graduation rates for Latinos rose by 4.7 percent. Still, gaps remain, with the graduation gap between white and Latino students now 11.1 percentage points, and the gap between white and black students at 22.2 percentage points.

The Ed Trust’s mini-brief was funded in part by the Lumina Foundation and serves to highlight colleges and universities that have had particular success in upping their minority enrollment and graduation rates. Specifically, the brief names the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where graduation rates among black students rose to 60.1% from 52.3% between 2010 and 2011. In addition, State University of New York at Stony Brook also gets a mention for improving the graduation rates among their Hispanic students who – at 66.5% – now graduate at a slightly higher rate than their white peers.

“Success in getting college students to graduation is not simply a function of money,” said Joseph Yeado, higher education research and policy analyst at The Education Trust and author of the mini-brief. “Resources are certainly valuable in establishing and promoting student support services like academic advising, tutoring and mentoring programs, and new student orientation. But these programs succeed or fail based upon the commitment and buy-in from the administration, faculty, and staff. The soft bigotry of low expectations has no place in either K-12 or higher education.”