Education Trust: 4 Keys to Closing the Higher Education Gap

Researchers seek ways to narrow the college graduation rate between blacks and whites

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If a solid college education is a necessary journey on the path to wealth and prosperity, then African Americans are being derailed, according to new data that delves into closing the graduation gap between African Americans at four-year institutions and their white peers.

The graduation rate for African-American students in the private colleges and universities in their analysis is 54.7%, compared with 73.4% for whites—an 18.7 percentage-point gap. Similarly, at public institutions, only 43.3% of African American students graduate within six years, compared with 59.5% of whites — a 16.2 percentage-point gap, according to the Education Trust. The researchers excluded for-profit institutions and Historically Black Colleges and Universities and studied the matriculation rates of 293 public and 163 private nonprofit colleges that have sufficient numbers of students of both races to calculate reliable gaps.

To close that gap, researchers recommend institutions follow these practices that worked well for Winthrop University in South Carolina, and three institutions in the University of North Carolina system:

• A mandate that all students, regardless of race, be given intentional support.
• Create an early alert system, in which faculty members are notified of students who are struggling academically. The college then works with each student’s adviser and resident assistant to provide the student with intrusive counseling.
• Collect detailed data about retention programs and use the data to evaluate programs and decide whether to expand or eliminate them.
• Creating programs that focus on the specific needs of African American male and female students.

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