Report cites WSU minority enrollment, graduation rates
PULLMAN, Wash. – Washington State University’s progress in enrolling and helping to promote the academic success of underrepresented minority students was cited Wednesday in a national report issued by The Education Trust, a Washington D.C.-based nonprofit organization focused on reducing achievement gaps.
The report, entitled Rising Tide: Do College Grad Rate Gains Benefit All Students? notes that the number of students of color at WSU has increased three-fold over the past ten years. It also concludes that, in contrast to a number of other public and private universities nationally, WSU has also achieved consistent improvement in minority graduation rates during the same period.
“More impressive,” the report’s authors write, “(WSU’s) graduation rate for African American, Latino, and Native American students has increased by 13 percentage points in the past decade. The graduation rate has also gone up for white students, but the large improvement among underrepresented minority (URM) students has cut in half the gap in graduation rates between these students and their white peers – which was 14 percentage points in 2003.”
The report notes that graduation rates during the same period didn’t improve uniformly across the 489 public and 820 private non-profit colleges and universities examined for the study.
“Some made huge gains, while others still graduate students at nearly the same rate they did 10 years ago,” the researchers wrote. “And in the worst cases, student completion is now lower. Among private nonprofit universities, just over half improved student success over the decade, while 30 percent backslid.”
Lucila Loera, WSU assistant vice president for the Office for Access, Equity and Achievement, said WSU’s experience suggests college and university leaders need to look closely at their graduation rates, identify troublesome trends, then engage faculty, staff and students themselves in identifying ways to best support all students toward success.
“When you’re working with this population, you have to be very intentional,” Loera said. “It’s not just, we’ll build it and they will come. It’s one thing to get students in the door,” “but it’s another thing for them to thrive and have an enriching educational experience.”
Erica Austin, WSU interim co-provost, agreed that the creative and focused efforts of staff and faculty and students have contributed to the university’s success in improving graduation rates for under-represented students.
“It is our honor and responsibility to enable students from all backgrounds to obtain a quality four-year degree,” she said. ” We bring students here because we have every reason to expect they can succeed, but we understand that we have to meet them where they are, cultivate their strengths, and ensure they feel connected to our university community.”
The Education Trust researchers said many factors play a role in whether students finish college, including their own economic circumstances and whether schools provide enough support. Their data shows that overall institutional improvements in graduation rates don’t necessarily translate into gains for under-represented students, much less close long-standing gaps between white student and minority student graduation rates.
“That takes deliberate action from institutions,” the researchers conclude, “much like what Washington State has done in the last 25 years.”
The report, which was cited today in articles in both The Washington Post and U.S. News & World Report, is available online at https://edtrust.org/resource/rising-tide/
Robert Strenge, WSU News, 509-592-7356, email@example.com