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College or bust

Report recommends eight steps to improve Black graduation rate

By Cynthia E. Griffin OW Managing Editor | 6/4/2015, midnight
The Campaign for College Opportunity in July will issue the third in a series of reports that presents an overview ...

The Campaign for College Opportunity in July will issue the third in a series of reports that presents an overview of the status of California’s ethnic minorities attending college.

This next report will look at the situation for Asian Americans. According to Michele Siqueiros, president of The Campaign for College Opportunity, contrary to what many believe, Asians are not uniformly doing better than Blacks and Latinos.

“There is a significant amount of diversity among Asian students, and there are some Pacific Islanders and native Hawaiians who face challenges much like Latino and Black students,” Siquerios said.

The look at Asian students follows the “State of Higher Education in California: Black Report” which was released in May (www.collegecampaign.org/resource-library/our-publications/) and a similar report for Latinos which came out in April.

If the number of minority students graduating college does not improve, Siqueiros said the state is on track to lose one million potential workers over the next 10 years.

According to Siqueiros, there are eight key recommendations to address the challenges that Black students face in California, which is home to the nation’s fifth largest Black population:

  1. Create a state-wide plan for higher education. This will take specific and targeted options to close the gaps between White, Black and Latino students. Siqueiros notes that two-thirds of Black applicants were turned down for admission by six of the nine University of California campuses. That report is attributed partly to the fact that only 31 percent of Black students (32 percent for Hispanics) have taken the requisite courses to qualify for admission. (These same qualifications are in place for the California State University system as well.)

U.C. Riverside is reportedly doing a good job of supporting its minority students and does not have a gap in graduation rates by race. U.S. News and World Report 2013-2014 Best Colleges, ranked U.C. Riverside as 12th in the nation in diversity.

“Regardless of what ethnic group you happen to be in, or how much money you have, our graduation rates are essentially the same,” said UC Riverside Chancellor Kim A. Wilcox at an information hearing held by Assemblyman Jose Medina (D-61), chair of the Assembly Higher Education Committee, to discuss UCR’s diversity, and its initiatives to serve low-income, first-generation undergraduate students. “Few other universities in the country can say that and none with the kind of diversity that we have,” added Wilcox.

One element of the discussion that is particularly troubling Siqueiros is that the Los Angeles Unified School District, the largest public school system in the state, which in 2005 adopted a policy that required all students to be prepared to meet the college-prep requirements, is considering stepping back from that pledge, which was expected to begin with the class of 2017.

The board is slated to discuss the issue at its June 9 meeting, because so many of its Black and Brown students are not on track to meet the goal. Siqueiros believes that rather than scale back, LAUSD should do everything possible to figure out how to get students on track to meet the standards.