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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    UA gets graded

    Editorial

    As we’re all getting nervous about the grades we’ll receive come December, our university administrators should be getting uncomfortable with some low marks the UA has already received.

    Last week, the Education Trust, a think tank established by the American Association for Higher Education, released its report “”Engines of Inequality,”” which graded 50 flagship universities in the U.S. on how well they fared at minority and low-income student access.

    The UA did not excel, to put it delicately.

    Our university received an “”F”” in minority access, an “”F”” in low-income access and a “”C”” in minority graduation rates.

    The report suggests that there are “”there are far more low-income students and students of color who meet the high standards of flagship universities than ever enroll there.””

    That certainly seems to be the case in our state.

    In Arizona, 41 percent of students who graduate from state high schools belong to groups considered underrepresented minorities at the collegiate level. Only 21 percent of students entering our state universities belong to underrepresented minorities. These numbers mean one thing: Our state universities aren’t serving Arizona’s population.

    President Robert Shelton’s goal of making the UA a Hispanic-serving institution is an admirable one and will go a long way in redressing this problem.

    But making sure that students have access to begin their university careers is only half of the task. It is also imperative that the UA improves its minority graduation rate.

    Our low overall graduation rate is already an embarrassment, with only 59 percent of students graduating within a six-year period. The numbers get even more dire for students who belong to underrepresented minorities. Only 44.5 percent of underrepresented minority students graduate from the UA in six years – with 40.8 percent of black students and 36.3 percent of American Indian students graduating within six years of enrolling.

    Graduation rates at our peer institutions don’t paint the same dire portrait. At Rutgers University, 61.1 percent of underrepresented minority students graduate within six years; at the University of Florida, it’s 64.8 percent, and at the University of California at Davis, it’s 71.9 percent. Our low graduation rates are clearly a fixable problem.

    The solutions for increasing minority student retention at the UA are the same as those for increasing overall retention. Better financial aid packages, more manageable tuition increases, increased course availability and more holistic advising services would all serve to aid both underrepresented minorities and the student body as a whole.

    And the student body will certainly be served by the diversity that steps like these would ensure.

    The study was clear in stating that flagship universities should continue to operate meritocratically, accepting the students who truly deserve to be there. The unfortunate truth is that many minority and low-income students who certainly are academically deserving of spots at flagship universities like the UA never make it here because of other institutional roadblocks.

    The UA must work hard to attract and welcome underrepresented students, both racially and socio-economically. But these steps will be useless if not combined with statewide efforts to meet the needs of these groups in K-12 education. It’s a big job, but it’s about time for Arizona to rise to the challenge.

    UA, you’ve received your report card and it’s not pretty. However, it’s never too late for some remedial work.

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