With graduation just around the corner, many students at the University of Texas are excited to finally start a new chapter in their lives. And in recent years, graduation rates at UT have been increasing. Unfortunately, the gains of graduation have been going to those who’ve needed them least.
According to a report from the Education Trust, the gap in graduation rates between white and minority students has widened between 2003 and 2013. The report found that six-year graduation rates for minority students at UT, which includes black, African-American and Native students, had risen from a mere 65.8 percent to 69.6 percent, while the graduation rates of white students had risen from 74.3 percent to 83.1 percent.
With more than a 5 percent difference in the rate of the rise in graduation rates between whites and minorities, higher education institutions need to start realizing how they can better cater to minority students — otherwise, this fight for affirmative action would be meaningless.
Jeff Strohl, research director for the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, argues how different backgrounds ultimately become academically segregated in an interview with the Washington Post.
“The American postsecondary system increasingly has become a dual system of racially separate pathways, even as overall minority access to the postsecondary system has grown dramatically,” Strohl said.
Through the implementation of affirmative action in universities, the conversation has been directed to providing equal opportunity to students from different socioeconomic backgrounds. And although there has been some retaliation, such as Fisher v. University of Texas, it could be argued that affirmative action policies have had a net positive impact in the sphere of fully integrating students from different backgrounds. Unfortunately, providing an equal opportunity for minority students to attend college doesn’t necessarily translate in said minority students to succeed in college. Rather, universities need to implement programs beyond their admissions; programs that cater specifically to minority students, their academic performance and their proper integration within college life.
One thing that higher education institutions can do is something like UT’s Texas Interdisciplinary Plan, which is designed for students that have low SAT scores, low family income and less-educated parents. TIP students are put into smaller sections of classes already offered in the University without sacrificing the course subject material. On top of that, TIP students are required two hours each week of extra instruction with upperclassmen or peer mentors in order to make sure students will be on top of their academics.
David Laude, creator of the TIP program, emphasized the necessity of providing increased assistance in an interview with the New York Times.
“We weren’t naïve enough to think they were just going to show up and start getting A’s, unless we overwhelmed them with the kind of support that would make it possible for them to be successful,” Laude said.
Beyond just TIP, having programs that specifically cater to minorities would be the ultimate solution. We need to continue to support and expand these programs in order to close the graduation gap between whites and minorities. For too long has the conversation been only surrounding getting students into college. We finally need to turn the conversation towards getting minorities to finally succeed in college.
Choudhury is an economics freshman from Richardson. He is a senior columnist. Follow him on Twitter @MubarratC.