Universities look to increase number of low-income, minority graduates
Access to Success is a group of 24 universities working together.
Dec. 04, 2009
The UM system, along with more than 20 other university systems, announced a goal Thursday to increase the number of low-income and minority college graduates by 20 percent before 2015.
The 24 university systems participating in the initiative, known as Access to Success, educate almost 40 percent of undergraduates attending public four-year colleges and universities, according to a news release from The Education Trust, one of the organizations behind the initiative.
Deborah Nobel-Triplett, the UM system assistant vice president for academic affairs, said the university is in the early stages of examining the data gathered from The Education Trust's report on low-income and minority enrollment in higher education.
"One of the advantages of being a part of this initiative is access to data we wouldn't normally have," Nobel-Triplett said. "Previously, we had data for minorities graduating high school and entering college, but not for those from low-income families."
According to The Education Trust's data for Missouri, minority freshmen students graduated with bachelor's degrees at lower rates than other students, 50 versus 64 percent. Low-income students graduated at lower rates than other students, 49 versus 65 percent.
"We'll be examining what each campus can do to reach our goal and we'll be looking at our retention practices for minority and low-income students to see what we can do differently," Nobel-Triplett said.
The Education Trust hosted a conference call Thursday between university system presidents and the media to discuss the research gathered for Access to Success. Charles Reed, National Association of System Heads President, took part in the conference call and said universities must do a better job of informing minorities of college requirements.
"We have failed in letting students of color know what they need to do to go to college and succeed," said Reed, who's also the president of the California State University system. "So, we must focus on getting minorities and those from low-income families the information they need to move beyond a high school education."
University system of Maryland Chancellor William Kirwan said improving access to higher education is the backbone of improving the nation on a larger scale.
"If the U.S. hopes to continue to be the world leader in things that matter, they must be the world leader in making a college education available," Kirwan said.
In its research, the initiative focuses not only on minority enrollment in four-year colleges and universities, but also enrollment from low-income areas.
"This is more than a competitive issue, this is a civil rights issue," Kirwan said. "A child from the lowest quartile income has a one in ten chance at a higher education. This goes against what our country is all about."
Jennifer Engle, a co-author of the report, said the research did show higher minority enrollment in two-year as opposed to four-year colleges.
"The two-year systems are an open door for minority students, in fact they're over represented," said Engle, who serves as the assistant director of higher education at The Education Trust. "Many students begin at a two-year college in hopes of transferring. However, our research shows few minorities actually make the transfer."
Reed, along with several other university system presidents, said the goal to increase minority and low-income enrollment in higher education must weather the economic recession, despite sweeping budget cuts.
"We have to take advantage of these tough economic times and look forward to a resurgence in investment in higher education," Reed said. "These students are the lifeblood of our states. Their future is our future. We need to be ready to reinvest in education."