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Mar 25 2016
by Daja Henry

Concerned Student 2016: Increasing Gaps in Graduation Rates Between White and Black Students

By Daja Henry - Mar 25 2016

A study done by the Education Trust shows that even though graduation rates are increasing among colleges nationally, not everyone can benefit from them. Fifty-three percent of the colleges that made gains in graduation rates between 2003 and 2013 did not see the same gains in their black population. This has led to the widening of long-standing gaps in graduation rates between African-American and Caucasian students. 

Of 232 colleges that have improved graduation rates, 73 of them show declined or stagnating rates of black graduates. For those that have increased, they have not increased at the rates of the white students, widening this racial gap. 

Since the graduation rates have been improving overall, the lack of improvement has gone unnoticed for far too long. Among other reasons, some causes for black students to drop out are the lack of academic and financial support, and being in an environment without resources designed specifically for them. 

The colleges in the study with the higher increases in black student graduation rates were the ones that implemented programs in order to help black students. Texas Tech saw an increase because of its program- Mentor Tech - designed to provide career, academic, and personal support for African-American and Latino students. 

One particular college that decreased was Mizzou, which was put on spotlight earlier this year for its protests of enduring racism, punctuated by the resignation of the University President and Chancellor.  Perhaps one reason why African-American students have not been graduating is the hostility of their environments. Although this has been happening for years, attention has recently been called to racial problems on college campuses. Recently protests have occurred at Mizzou, Yale, UCLA, University of Michigan, and many more. Mizzou senior Alanna Diggs told the Huffington Post that these racial tensions are nowhere near new, but a buildup of issues over time. 

As this is an ongoing issue, it seems some things will never change. The underlying racial tensions on college campuses draw some semblance to the blatant ones during the times of Ruby Bridges, then a six year old child, when she became one of the first black students at an all-white school. Bridges was heckled in her attempts to get an education, and had to be escorted to school daily. However, she endured through it and was one of the driving forces in integrating schools throughout the nation.

Though seemingly, there have been landslides of progress, the movement started by Ms. Bridges her predecessors in the landmark case, Brown v. Board of Education, is silently being undermined. Like the ever-changing strains of the flu virus, racism is evolving. Though institutions have been forced to change, people have not. This results in the masking of these incidents. People don't know that students are dropping out at such alarming rates because of these issues because according to CNN, only 13 percent of racist incidents are reported. 

At Lawrence University, a college with only a 3 percent black population, the n-word was recently published in their newspaper. Additionally, the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education keeps a running documentation of racial incidents on college campuses. They range from hate crimes to blackface and even things published in official school publications. Black students around the country, particularly at Louisiana State University, which boasts an 11 percent black population, are tired of being overlooked in an educational system not designed for them. 

In light of these recent findings on the widening gap, perhaps a start at alleviating the problem is mandating programs at colleges to be inclusive of minority students, such as the Mentor Tech program implemented at Texas Tech. Ohio State University, another college that has shown progress in alleviating the racial gap credits initiatives directed toward first-generation college students, African-Americans, and Latinos.

Lead Image Credit: Flickr Creative Commons

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Daja Henry - Howard University

Daja Henry is a sophomore Media, Journalism, and Film Communications major at Howard University. She is a writer, lyric connoisseur, and lover of all cultures. You can follow her on Twitter @dajaeh97.

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