University Systems Commit to Closing Gap

Black college students earn bachelor’s degrees at nearly half the rate — Hispanic students at nearly less than a third the rate — of White students. Low-income students get their undergraduate degrees at one-eighth the rate of more economically advantaged students.

Nineteen public higher education systems across the country have banded together to try to reverse those trends. They are participating in the Access to Success initiative, a National Association of Systems Heads (NASH) project aiming to shave by half the gaps in both college-going and degree-completion rates that separate low-income and minority students from others by 2015.

“This has the potential to be one of the most significant initiatives impacting the future of higher education in America,” said Dr. Ralph Slaughter, president of Southern University System, the nation’s only historically Black university system.

The project’s 19 systems plan a four-pronged approach to address the problem:

• Increasing student access in remedial courses and other large-enrollment introductory courses;

• Managing costs and investing in student success;

• Improving preparation among entering students; and

• Maximizing financial aid for low-income students.

The groups will be pulling together resources and sharing ways to make these goals a reality. They’ve already met, discussing collegiate cost management issues.

Dr. William E. Kirwan, University System of Maryland chancellor, said, “Maryland’s high school graduates will be majority-minority students within the next two years. We simply cannot meet the needs of our states without doing a better job with our underrepresented minority students.”

The college and university systems participating in Access to Success include: California State University System, Connecticut State University System, State University System of Florida, University of Hawaii System, Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education, University of Louisiana System, Southern University and A&M College System, University of Maine System, University System of Maryland, Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning, University of Missouri System, Montana University System, City University of New York, State University of New York, University of Puerto Rico System, Rhode Island Board of Governors for Higher Education, South Dakota Board of Regents and Vermont State Colleges.

–Add Seymour Jr.

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