Towson University Ends Graduation Gap Between Blacks, Whites, and Latinos

by Latoya Peterson

From the “some good news for once” files, here’s a piece from the Washington Post on how Towson University is one of eleven schools nationwide where graduation rates for minority students “meet or exceed those of whites.”

In 10 years, according to school data, Towson has raised black graduation rates by 30 points and closed a 14-point gap between blacks and whites. University leaders credit a few simple strategies: admitting students with good grades from strong public high schools, then tracking each student’s progress with a network of mentors, counselors and welcome-to-college classes.

“Regardless of your background, there’s people here for you who understand what you’re going through,” said Kenan Herbert, 23, an African American Towson senior from Brooklyn, N.Y.

The data used by The Washington Post was provided by The Education Trust, an educational think tank and watch dog group that is taking an honest look at how our institutions of higher learning measure up.

The Education Trust published a brief on this subject, and has some strong words for educational professionals who seem far too willing to just accept gaps between black and white students:

[W]hen we see data suggesting that the average graduation rate for black students in four-year colleges and universities is about 20 points below that of their white peers, we are hardly surprised. The average black student, we know, leaves high school with a weaker academic record than the average white graduate, so where’s the mystery? Until somebody fixes the
high school problem, there’s not much colleges and universities can do.

Or is there?

For the past several months, we’ve been digging beneath the averages and looking at data from individual institutions in our College Results Online database. We’ve found that some institutions have horrendous graduation-rate gaps between white and black students—well above the national average. And it turns out that other institutions have no gaps at all. Indeed, in dozens of colleges, black students graduate at rates equal to or higher than their white counterparts.

In other words, it’s not entirely about preparation, and wide gaps in the graduation rates of white and black students are not inevitable. Our analysis strongly suggests that what colleges do with and for the students they admit matters a great deal.

The data set in the report explains the horrifying statistics:

The graduation rate for African-American students in the private colleges and universities in our analysis is 54.7 percent, compared with 73.4 percent for whites—an 18.7 percentage-point gap.

Similarly, at public institutions, only 43.3 percent of African American students graduate within six years, compared with 59.5 percent of whites—a 16.2 percentage-point gap.

However the researchers over at Education Trust point out that some of the data patterns reveal disturbing trends:

[I]nstitutions on our “big gap” lists—the 25 public and 25 private
colleges and universities with the largest white-black gaps(see Tables 5 and 6). These institutions all have gaps larger than average, and some have gaps upwards of 30 percentage points.

Some institutions—such as the University of Akron in Ohio and Wayne State University in Michigan— are not serving white students particularly well, but black students fare even worse.Only about four in ten white students at these universities graduate within six years, and only about one in ten black students do.

Other institutions—Michigan State University and
Indiana University-Bloomington, to name two—graduate
white students at high rates but have large gaps for African-
American students. At Indiana University, 73 percent
of white students graduate within six years—well above
the national average—yet only half of its black students
do.

The full brief is well worth the read. The Trust takes pains to note that the most successful colleges on the list acknowledged there was an issue and took responsibility to close that gap.