The Education Trust released a report today documenting large graduation rate gaps between white, black, and Latino students at many colleges and universities. It includes a list of the worst offenders, the top of which is below, in descending order of disparity (the first number is the average six-year graduation rate for white students from 2006 to 2008, the second is the rate for black students)
Wayne State: 43.5 / 9.5
Cal State – Fresno: 55.9 / 24.1
Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania: 66.2 / 35.9
Kansas State: 60.7 / 30.5
The College of New Jersey: 87.5 / 58.7
University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee: 46.1 / 17.9
Cal State – Bakersfield: 47.2 / 19.2
Rowan University: 69.5 / 42.2
University of Wisconsin – Whitewater: 55.0 / 27.7
Wayne State stands out like a sore thumb on this list. It has the single biggest percentage point gap between white and black students in America. The overall graduation rate for black students is in single digits. And unlike the rest of the institutions, where on average only about six percent of the student body is black, almost a third of Wayne State students are black. This is a Research I university than enrolls close to 7,000 black students in a given year and their graduation rate is nine percent. Even if you stretch the timeframe out to 8 or 10 years and include transfer students these are still terrible, terrible numbers. It’s depressing how the worst examples of everything seem to be in Detroit.
President Obama gave a speech about college graduation today. He had a lot of good things to say about simplifying the financial aid process, boosting Pell grants, investing in community colleges, and learning from successful institutions. He even mentioned Cleveland State community college, which I wrote about in the Chronicle last year.
But there was nothing about fixing low-performing universities. And if you’ve got a 9.5 percent six-year graduation rate for 7,000 black students, there’s something more troubling going on than a failure to adopt “best practices.” If the Obama administration doesn’t come up with a serious plan to help students at places like Wayne State, it’s not going to meet its lofty college graduation goals.