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Education/Schools

February 23, 2014

Graduation rates at IU show racial disparity

Low minority numbers at regional campuses skew results

BLOOMINGTON — While the Indiana Commission for Higher Education found on-time graduation “is the exception” in its 2014 report on degree completion rates in Indiana, minority students across Indiana University campuses have faced exceptional challenges earning a degree in four years.

At Indiana University’s Bloomington campus, which had the highest rate of students graduating in four years on the same campus, only 19 percent of black students finished their degrees within four years, while 53 percent of white and Asian students did so, and 40 percent of Hispanic students.

The commission’s study showed not only a “completion gap” between the two- and four-year institutions, but also differences within ethnic groups at four-year universities.

The state’s analysis found 20 to 30 percent gaps between the lowest and highest achieving demographics across Indiana; at IU-Bloomington, 85.4 percent of white students “It’s something we are absolutely determined to improve,” John Applegate, IU’s vice president for university academic affairs, said. “It obviously has to do with the kind of backgrounds these students come from. The high schools these minority students go to are not preparing them as well.”

On-time graduation rates for minorities at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis and the regional campuses lag behind even more. Less than 3 percent of black students are graduating from IUPUI within four years, and IU South Bend, for example, had none of its black students in the study period graduate in four years. Neither did IU Southeast in New Albany.

A lack of minority representation at some of those regional campuses did skew the numbers. At both the Southeast and South Bend campuses, there were less than 30 black students to track. In IU Kokomo and IU East in Richmond, the black and Hispanic demographics were so small, less than 10 students, that the graduation percentages based on race were “suppressed” to not identify those students.

The regional campuses have the most “opportunity” to improve four-year graduation rates, Applegate said. IU switched gears with its regional campuses when they became four-year institutions, leaving most of the responsibility for remediation of students, and two-year degrees, to Ivy Tech Community College. But low completion rates, Applegate said, still reflect the “complex history” of students who enroll in the regional campuses, which are meant for “outreach” and don’t attract as many of the first-year, college-ready students that come to Bloomington. The regional campuses and Ivy Tech attract a higher percentage of part-time students, who may be balancing school with work and/or family obligations.

Despite two-year completion rates sitting at 3.8 percent, Ivy Tech President Tom Snyder called the community college’s rates “competitive” to IU’s regional campuses. More than 48 percent of Ivy Tech’s full- and part-time students graduate within six years for a two-year degree. IU’s regional campuses range from about 28 to 43 percent in six years, but that’s for a four-year degree. Completion rates have also been increasing at some of the regional campuses in recent years.

For example, the four-year completion rate for the incoming class of 2006 at IU East was 5 percent, but 14 percent of the 2009 class graduated in four years. IU Kokomo increased from 6 to 13 percent between 2004 and 2009. On the other hand, the South Bend campus has remained stagnant, at between 8 to 9 percent, from the 2002 incoming class to 2009.

Overall, IU Bloomington’s on-time graduation rates have been increasing in recent years. Four-year graduation rates have increased since 2005, from 50 to 60 percent.

“Because of the outreach mission of the regional campuses, we would expect (the completion rates) would be lower, because they are bringing in students with a much wider range of preparedness,” Applegate said. “These are the populations these institutions are expected to serve.”

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