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Current News
College Graduation Rates Could Dramatically 
Decline, If Minorities Don't Improve College 
Completion, Report Says 
By Michelle J. Nealy
Jun 23, 2009, 09:17

Summary:

College graduation rates will decline 
precipitously nationally in the coming years if 
nothing is done to improve the postsecondary 
completion rates of Black and Hispanic students, 
who represent the fastest growing student 
populations in colleges and universities, says 
the latest annual report released by the Southern 
Regional Education Board (SREB). 

Story:

LANSDOWNE, Va.

College graduation rates will decline 
precipitously nationally in the coming years if 
nothing is done to improve the postsecondary 
completion rates of Black and Hispanic students, 
who represent the fastest growing student 
populations in colleges and universities, says 
the latest annual report released by the Southern 
Regional Education Board (SREB).

The SREB is a nonprofit organization that assists 
education leaders and legislators in 16 Southern 
member states to improve education at all levels.

Nearly 52 percent of first-time, full-time 
freshmen at public four-year colleges and 
universities earned their bachelor's degrees 
within six years in SREB states in 2007, the 
report indicates. The 16 Southern states that 
encompass the SREB lagged three points behind the 
national graduation rate of 55 percent.

When disaggregated by race, the data show that 
graduation rates for Black and Hispanic students 
were lower than the national and regional 
averages.

Roughly 43 percent of Hispanic students and 40 
percent of Black students nationwide graduated 
from a college or university in six years in 2007 
compared with 58 percent of White students. In 
SREB states, the numbers are nearly identical 
with 56 percent of White college students 
graduating in six years, compared to 43 percent 
of Hispanic students and 40 percent of Black 
students.

"The overall college graduation rate will go down 
unless the graduation gaps between groups are 
closed because the faster growing groups have the 
lowest rates," said Joseph Marks, director of 
education data services for SREB and co-author of 
the report during the 2009 SREB Annual Meeting on 
Monday.

Over the next decade, the educational pipeline 
will be infused with large numbers of minorities, 
experts say. By 2022, non-White public high 
school graduates are projected to be the majority 
of public high school graduates in 10 of the 16 
SREB states, the data reveal.

In fact, Hispanic students are expected to 
account for 31 percent of the region's projected 
public high school graduation rates by 2022, up 
from 14 percent in 2005. White high-school 
students who represented 60 percent of overall 
students in 2005 will account for 43 percent in 
2022.

Nationally, the increase of minority populations 
will follow a similar trajectory, the data show.

It is well known that minorities have lower rates 
of college completion and lower rates of college 
enrollment. With the numbers of White college 
students expected to decline, something 
"significant" must be done to maintain the status 
quo on completion rates said Joan Lord, vice 
president at SREB, at the same meeting, noting 
that simply maintaining the status quo will make 
it more difficult for the nation to compete in 
the global arena.

Not only must states work harder to improve 
college retention and graduation rates, but they 
must also work harder to make higher education 
more affordable.

"Kids who do not think that their families have 
the money to send them to college, do not do the 
work to prepare," said Patrick Callan, president 
of The National Center for Public Policy and 
Higher Education.

Data collected by SREB show that nationwide the 
average annual costs for an in-state 
undergraduate to attend a public university 
reached $15,200 in 2008, which is 110 percent 
above the average in 1978 when adjusted for 
inflation. The average cost for a public two-year 
institution rose 142 percent to $7,100 over the 
same period.

Callan insisted that new models for funding 
higher education must be developed. The old 
models, he insisted, deny too many access.

"We are still operating on a post-World War II 
model of funding higher education that no longer 
works," Callan said.

In terms of retaining more students, SREB 
researchers identified strategies that have 
already proven successful for at institutions 
with a large numbers of minority and first 
generation college students. Among the strategies 
for successful retention were: visible keystone 
initiatives, a shared sense of responsibility 
throughout the university, high faculty 
engagement, clear expectations for students and 
strong learning communities.


 Copyright 2005 by DiverseEducation.com

-- 
Norman A. Stahl, Ph.D.
Professor and Chair
Literacy Education

Past President, National Reading Conference

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