Published March 30, 2016
A new national study by The Education Trust cited UB among the universities that stand out for improving overall graduation rates while also achieving significant gains for black students during the last decade.
“Among this group of colleges making gains for black students the University at Buffalo is an exemplar,” the report said.
The report, Rising Tide II: Do Black Students Benefit as Grad Rates Increase?, found that while graduation rates improved for black students at almost 70 percent of the 232 four-year public institutions sampled nationwide, progress for other student groups has been faster, widening long-standing gaps.
UB is an exception, the Education Trust study found. From 2003 to 2013 graduation rates for black students at UB have increased by 20.1 points, to 63.5 percent. During the same period UB has also improved graduation rates for white students by 13.5 points, to 72.3 percent. As a result, the completion gap between white and black students at UB has decreased from 15.4 points in 2003 to 8.8 points in 2013.
In a letter to UB President Satish K. Tripathi, Jose L. Santos, Education Trust vice president for higher education program and policy praised UB’s efforts to improve graduation rates for black students: “We have identified your institution as among those colleges or universities that has really moved the needle for African-American students.
“We applaud the leadership at the University at Buffalo for working to improve graduation rates for black students – and close gaps between white and black students – over the last decade and have highlighted your institution for pointedly addressing completion among black students as an example for others to follow.”
Andrew M. Stott, UB vice provost and dean of undergraduate education, said the report was wonderful news for the university. “It reflects well on the many programs across our institution that serve minority students, such as those in Cora P. Maloney College, which for decades has been supporting low-income, first-generation and under-represented students as they seek to attain their academic goals.
“These programs provide community, mentorship and opportunity, and are vital in ensuring that education is a resource that is equally available to all.”
According to Lee Melvin, UB vice provost for enrollment management, UB’s admissions staff is spending more time in the New York City area, while also recruiting more aggressively in the Buffalo Public Schools, where approximately 50 percent of the student population is black.
UB admissions counselors also have worked to identify and assist black students who have demonstrated the talent and determination to succeed in a university setting. In addition, the university has made changes in how it admits applicants. By advising each student more conscientiously toward academic programs that would be the best fit, UB admissions counselors are keeping more students on track toward a degree, Melvin said.
The report praised UB and other universities for their “intentional” efforts to improve graduation rates for black students and for not assuming that overall graduation rates lead to gains for all student populations. “These institutions illustrate that demographics aren’t destiny and that what colleges do with and for their students plays a pivotal role in student success.”
This is the second of two research papers looking at the graduation rates of traditionally underserved minority students. The first report — Rising Tide: Do College Grad Rate Gains Benefit All Students? — was released by The Education Trust in December 2015, and examined the graduation rates of Latino, Native, African American and white students.
The Education Trust is a national nonprofit advocacy organization that promotes high academic achievement for all students at all levels, particularly for students of color and low-income students.