Retention of minority students a problem at MU

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Nationally, minority students have a lower retention and graduation rate than their white counterparts. Marquette is no exception.

While Marquette students outperform their national counterparts at graduating in four and six years, not all races graduate the university at an equal rate.

Of first-time, full-time freshman who entered Marquette in 2004, 62 percent graduated in four years and 81 percent graduated in six years. Nationally, 52.5 percent of students in that same group (four-year private, not-for-profit schools) graduated in four years, and 65.5 percent graduated in six years.

According to data compiled by Marquette’s Office of Institutional Research and Assessment from The Chronicle of Higher Education’s College Completion report, those graduation rates are not even across races. 82.3 percent of white students in the 2004 freshman class graduated within six years, while 68.9 percent of black students graduated within the same period. Nationally, white and black students graduate within six years at rates of 68 percent and 44.9 percent, respectively. Students from most other identified races on campus (including Hispanic, American Indian and Other) also surpassed national six-year graduation rates, although Asian graduation rates on campus were slightly lower than national statistics, 73 percent versus 76.2 percent.

The data also states retention of Marquette students from admission to the following year (in 2004) is fairly consistent across ethnicity, at about 89 percent. Alexandra Riley, associate director of the OIRA, said the office does not have access to retention by ethnicity for other institutions, so peer data is not available.

Anne Deahl, associate vice provost for academic support programs and retention, said the university chooses to look beyond race when examining retention and graduation rate data.

“We have intensely successful minority students at Marquette,” Deahl said. “But many times diverse students come from risk backgrounds. What we’ve chosen to look at is the reasons why students struggle.”

Deahl said the university looks at three risk backgrounds: commuter students, first-generation college students and low-income backgrounds.

“If someone doesn’t graduate, it doesn’t mean failure,” Deahl said. “Student success is a complicated issue. Students are whole people and it is not all about innate academic ability.”

Deahl said factors nationwide that contribute to student success are academic preparation, academic motivation and financial capacity.

“Even though our rates are high we continue to make (graduation and retention) a priority,” she said.

Deahl said Marquette has spent a lot of time on student success in the last two years. She said changes have been made in student educational services to improve students success. The office hired a full-time academic services coordinator who meets individually with students on probation, expanded existing programing and is trying to target students who are most likely to need support at Marquette.

Karen Desotelle, director of Marquette’s Office of Student Educational Services (OSES), also emphasized the struggle of being a first-generation or low-income student. She said almost half of the low-income, first-generation students of color commute to Marquette, which can be an added stressor.

She said the goal of the office is to create places that students feel comfortable going and help them feel connected with campus. She said educational services either does not collect data on the race of students involved in its programming or does not release it.

Desotelle said students who chose to leave Marquette often have a combination of academic, financial and social issues. She said the biggest need for all students is having someone that they trust who understands college to help them through the process and give perspective.

“Marquette can be difficult if you are not a white student,” Desotelle said. “There aren’t very many students of color on campus.”

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