A recent USA Today report states that as of 2013, 64 percent of white college students graduated while only 50 percent of underrepresented minorities such as African Americans, Native Americans and Hispanic students graduated in over 255 of the California colleges. The push by the state and federal government in integrating minorities into higher education has been successful in increasing admittance rates; however, new procedures must be in place to increase graduation rates.
The same report argues that nearly one-third of the colleges and universities that improved graduation rates overall actually saw graduation rates for African American students remain flat or decline. 27 of the 255 schools the USA Today report analyzed had declining graduation rates for their African American students.
The policy of affirmative action (AA) passed in 1965 pushed public colleges into prioritizing the admittance of minorities in order to avoid a federal fine. The policy was ended in 1997 under Proposition 209, which aimed to reduce preferential treatment by the government. The end of affirmative Action brought a decrease in admittance rates, but simultaneously graduation rates for minorities increased. Colleges set limits on the percentage of Asian minorities omitted, while prioritizing a few ethnicities above others into higher education. Affirmative action was detrimental in the long run because it was not an appropriate solution to the graduation gap in universities across the United States.
Federal legislation through affirmative action has failed to close the gap in graduation, therefore, Colleges and high schools must attend to why minority students lack in attendance. Colleges should push initiatives that connect more low-income minority students to campuses where they will succeed and encourage graduation once they arrive, increase preparation for college, reduce inequalities in college advising and test preparation, and establish remedial education.
Having affordable college, not just providing loans to students, will go a long way toward helping to close the achievement gap as high tuition discourage minorities from higher education. Often, initiatives like providing the first two years of community college for free to qualifying students is one of many ways that graduation can become more accessible to minority, first-generation migrants and other at-risk students. As of last year, Tennessee’s newly launched statewide program for free community college had nearly 60,000 students apply, and the state expects that ultimately 15,000 students will enroll as part of the program. In the last eight months, five states and communities have created free community college programs. Similar results would be expected if the same model was applied to public universities.
A greater educated public means a stronger economy, greater industrial development, and an overall better quality of life. All colleges hold diversity plans that need to be re-analyzed to see if they truly are doing enough to close the country’s graduation gap. Continued individual guidance throughout the college process, improved recruiting, and affordable college are a few ways that higher education can support greater equality.