At UC River­side, black stu­dents nar­row the achieve­ment gap

Lodi News-Sentinel - - Local/State - By Teresa Watan­abe

LOS AN­GE­LES — The grad­u­ates wore tra­di­tional caps and gowns, but they didn’t sit qui­etly await­ing their diplo­mas or form a solemn pro­ces­sional to the strains of “Pomp and Cir­cum­stance.”

They strut­ted, show­cas­ing dance moves to a rap beat. They cheered Nige­rian and Abyssinian dance troupes. They got to their feet for a rous­ing spo­ken word per­for­mance. They whooped as speaker af­ter speaker re­minded them of what they’d just ac­com­plished.

“The statis­tics were against you, but you pre­vailed and I am so, so proud of you,” Sha­ree Hughes of the school’s African Stu­dent Pro­grams told them.

The 76 par­tic­i­pants in the re­cent Black Grad­u­a­tion cer­e­mony at the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, River­side ex­em­pli­fied a strik­ing achieve­ment: The cam­pus has one of the small­est ra­cial achieve­ment gaps in the na­tion. African-Amer­i­cans at River­side grad­u­ate at rates sim­i­lar to that of whites and Lati­nos and just be­low Asian-Amer­i­cans.

The six-year grad­u­a­tion rate in 2015 for stu­dents who started and fin­ished at UC River­side was 73 per­cent for blacks, 71 per­cent for whites, 69 per­cent for Lati­nos and 77 per­cent for Asian-Amer­i­cans, ac­cord­ing to cam­pus data.

Other UC cam­puses have higher black grad­u­a­tion rates. But in a study this year of 676 public and pri­vate cam­puses, UC River­side ranked first in Cal­i­for­nia and sixth in the na­tion in out­per­form­ing uni­ver­si­ties with sim­i­lar stu­dent pop­u­la­tions. The Ed­u­ca­tion Trust, a Wash­ing­ton, D.C.based non­profit, said UC River­side showed con­sis­tent suc­cess, with a 69.5 per­cent grad­u­a­tion rate av­er­aged over three years (2012-2014), com­pared with an av­er­age of 48.4 per­cent at com­pa­ra­ble uni­ver­si­ties, such as the Univer­sity of Illi­nois at Chicago, the Univer­sity of North Carolina and Vir­ginia Com­mon­wealth Univer­sity.

The Univer­sity of Illi­nois at Chicago, the study noted, ac­cepted sim­i­lar stu­dents and more African-Amer­i­cans. But the black grad­u­a­tion rate at the Illi­nois cam­pus was about 30 per­cent­age points lower than River­side’s, and the gap be­tween black and white stu­dents in grad­u­at­ing from the school was nearly 20 per­cent­age points higher.

“Their per­for­mance is amaz­ing,” said The Ed­u­ca­tion Trust’s An­drew H. Ni­chols, the study’s co-au­thor. “Other univer­sity pres­i­dents and provosts should look to River­side to see what they’re do­ing to pro­mote such suc­cess.”

IRFAN KHAN/LOS AN­GE­LES TIMES

Ken­neth Si­mons is a Di­rec­tor of African Stu­dent Pro­grams at Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia River­side.

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