STATEMENT OF DWAYNE ASHLEY REGARDING AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE’S COLLEGE REPORT "DIPLOMAS AND DROPOUTS."
New York, NY - The Thurgood Marshall College Fund believes the American Enterprise Institute’s report “Diplomas and Dropouts: Which Colleges Actually Graduate Their Students (and Which Don’t)” raises some valid issues regarding low graduation and retention rates at some of the nation’s universities. However, we feel strongly that graduation rates are just one factor students and parents should consider in choosing what college to attend.
Decisions such as selecting an environment that is affordable and offers an inviting culture where students feel nurtured and encouraged to succeed are equally as important to minority students, especially for those who are first-generation college students. Students who do not find these qualities will often transfer to other schools. For this reason, we strongly agree with the report’s conclusion that federal graduation data must include the growing numbers of transfer and part-time students.
When ranking public Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) along side other institutions, the conversation must include the realization that 45 percent of our entering students are first generation college students, and 90 percent require some form of financial aid. Many of these young men and women come from low-income households and often must work to help support themselves and their families. According to our annual Demographic Report—which surveyed the 47-member institutions about the 2006-2007 school year on a variety of topics—retention rates for first year undergraduates was 63 percent, versus the national average of 56 percent. Since 2001, our students have relied more on financial aid loans, which have increased by 82 percent, versus a 39 percent increase in federal grants.
If nothing else, the report’s findings that nationally, four-year colleges graduate an average of 53 percent of entering students within six years should highlight the need for educators and researchers to take a deeper look behind those numbers, and focus more attention on developing solutions for increasing the college-readiness of our high schoolers.
For the past five years, we’ve been testing out some innovative public-private partnerships in underserved communities across the country—working with local school districts, public HBCUs, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation—to increase the college-readiness of minority high school students in six public schools. We believe these model schools inGeorgia, Louisiana, Maryland, North Carolina and Texas would offer compelling examples for any discussions around closing the achievement gaps that currently exist in our secondary schools.
Last year, we began implementing the TMCF Pathways Initiative with Gallup on public HBCU campuses in an effort to address student retention and academic engagement issues. The initiative helps entering freshmen identify their strengths and create a ‘strengths success plan’ that will take them from their first year on campus to the workplace. Our goal is for freshmen students at all of the 47-member institutions to have access to their very own ‘strengths success plan’ to track their performance with faculty and career counselors by the end of 2010. We feel strongly that strategic partnerships such as these are directly addressing President Obama’s educational priorities to transform American education by increasing college-going rates and academic success.
Lesia R. Bullock
About Thurgood Marshall College Fund, Inc.
The Thurgood Marshall College Fund, Inc., named for the late U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice, was established in 1987 and represents 47 public Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and 6 Law Schools located in 22 states with a population of well over 250,000 students. Over the last 21 years, TMCF has awarded more than $100 million in leadership development, programmatic and capacity support, and scholarships enabling more than 15,000 students to attend public HBCUs. It is the only national organization of its type that provides merit-based scholarships and programmatic support to students attending the nation’s public HBCUs. TMCF also provides internship programs and joins corporate and foundation partners in providing leadership training and support to students preparing for undergraduate and professional schools. TMCF is a 501(c) 3, tax-exempt organization.