Task Force Presents Report on Iowa Universities and Minorities

CEDAR FALLS Iowa

Officials at Iowa’s public universities want to close the graduation and retention gap between white and minority students.

A task force has recommended closely monitoring grades of students at risk of failing, and improving the pool of minority applicants to the universities.

The group, called the inter-institutional task force on graduation and retention, was commissioned last year. It came about after the wide disparities among minorities, mainly among white and Black students, was brought to the Iowa Board of Regents’ attention.

The group presented its recommendations to the board this week.

“We must improve efforts to help more students of color do what is needed to be prepared for college,” said University of Iowa Vice Provost Tom Rocklin, who served on the task force.

A graduation report that spanned six years showed that while 67 percent of White students at the University of Iowa were successful in their studies, only 44 percent of Black students achieved the same success. The trend has persisted since at least the late 1980s, according to data from the report.

Outside experts were also called to examine the university’s policies and practices for minority graduation and retention. That audit team will return to campus this month to help the university develop an action plan.

“We will make progress, but it will not be immediate. It will take a long time before we can achieve our goals,” Rocklin said. “You push for a long time before something happens, but once it does, there is momentum.”

Rocklin said some of the efforts will likely focus on improving the applicant pool, and he wants to see a collaborative effort among the universities to increase the number of minority students taking the ACT college entrance exam.

Monitoring student grade-point averages and intervening if necessary is another option proposed by the task force, although the details of what actions to take have not been finalized.

The group also recommended creating a standing working group to continue examining the issue.

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