"While more research in this area is certainly needed, the biggest challenge in better serving minority college students is not creating new knowledge about how to help them; it is creating new incentives for institutional leaders to act on the knowledge that already exists," says the report, written by Kevin Carey, Education Sector's research and policy manager.
"If there is a single factor that seems to distinguish colleges and universities that have truly made a difference on behalf of minority students, it is attention," the report says. "Successful colleges pay attention to graduation rates. They monitor year-to-year change, study the impact of different interventions on student outcomes, break down the numbers among different student populations, and continuously ask themselves how they could improve."The report identifies several institutions--including Florida State University and the University of Alabama--where black students are at least as likely as their white peers to earn degrees in a timely manner. It says nothing is preventing other colleges from adopting the strategies such institutions have used to great effect, such as aggressively intervening to help students who run into trouble in the beginning of their freshman year and placing students in "learning communities" where they offer each other support while taking courses together.
Nationally, black students at four-year colleges have a six-year graduation rate that is about 20 percentage points lower than the six-year graduation rate for white students.
A Chronicle of Higher Education article summarizing the report's key findings is available to subscribers here.