Officials Look to Boost Minority Graduations At N.J. Colleges
T he number of minority students enrolled at New Jersey colleges is on the rise, but their graduation rates still lag behind those of White students.
While about 60 percent of White students in New Jersey graduate from college within six years after they enroll, only about 40 percent of Black and Hispanic students do.
“If the dynamics are left naturally on their own, the picture will get worse,” James Sulton, executive director of the New Jersey Commission on Higher Education, told The Sunday Record of Hackensack.
College administrators point to financial troubles, social isolation and lack of resources in public schools that many of their students attended.
The commission says one way to narrow the graduation gap is to pump more money into the Educational Opportunity Fund, which helps pay for nontuition expenses of low-income students.
While students of all races are eligible, 75 percent of those in the program are minorities.
Several colleges have other tactics to try to increase minority retention. Some, like Fairleigh Dickinson, are starting summer programs for minority students who need extra help. Others, like Ramapo College, monitor new students closely and offer extra help for those who struggle.
“All the literature says that students’ ability to succeed or inability to succeed occurs within the first six weeks of college,” says Peter Goetz, director of retention and recruitment at Ramapo. “We get to the freshmen early.”
The commission also wants to increase the number of minority faculty members. Currently, about 16 percent of New Jersey college faculty are minorities.
The number of minority students, meanwhile, is on the rise. In 1994, Black, Asian and Hispanic students made up 27 percent of the state’s student body. Last year, those groups made up 30 percent of New Jersey college students. The commission has estimated that by 2015, that number will grow to 40 percent, and it credits public school reforms for the rise.
The commission is compiling a report on the obstacles minority
students face and how the state can help them.
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