Significant gaps in graduation rates remain between different minority groups and students with varying levels of financial need, a report revealed.
The state Board of Regents recently released its Annual Graduation & Retention Report for Fall 2017. The report revealed the University of Iowa’s retention rate for students returning for a second year was 86 percent, down one percentage point from the previous year.
Regent institutions overall had a 44 percent four-year graduation rate while the UI had a 51 percent four-year graduation rate. When compared to its peer group, the UI’s four-year graduation rate is considerably low. Only one of the 10 institutions in the peer group ranked below 51 percent.
UI President Bruce Harreld addressed the UI’s retention and graduation rates at Thursday’s regents meeting in Ames.
“While we are not at all satisfied with our current retention rate or the four-year graduation rate relative to our peers, we are performing well above the national average of 81 percent for retention rate and 35 percent for four-year graduation rate,” Harreld said.
Minority group retention and graduation rates
The report found that there was a gap between the six-year graduation rates of minority groups compared to that of white students. For the 2011 cohort, white students had a 74 percent graduation rate compared to 65 percent for minority groups.
Within the different minority groups accounted for in the report, black students specifically had a lower six-year graduation rate at 56 percent compared to those of other minorities and white students.
“I think at a predominantly white institution, there’s some systemic barriers that we need to continue to address so we can better support those students and create a more inclusive and welcoming environment,” Director of Academic Support and Retention Mirra Anson said.
Anson said often times, students from marginalized populations tend to have less sense of belonging in the campus community.
She highlighted some different resources across campus that aim to assist minority students in feeling welcome and providing academic support. These resources included the cultural centers, Supplemental Instruction, and the federally funded TRIO program.
“That whole piece of social integration is really critical for student retention and student success,” Anson said.
Low-income students face lower graduation rates
The report revealed that students who receive the Pell Grant had the lowest six-year graduation rate compared to students who get other types of financial aid or no aid at all. Receipt of a Pell Grant often serves as an approximate measure of low-income status for students.
Students who receive a Pell Grant had a 64 percent six-year graduation rate while students who receive no federal loans had a 76 percent graduation rate.
Associate Dean of University College Andrew Beckett highlighted the number of first-generation student on the UI’s campus.
“Almost one out of every four of our students are the first in their family to attend college,” Beckett said. “There’s a lot of overlap in Pell Grant and first-generation status.”
Beckett said there has been an effort to focus on how the UI can better serve its first-generation students and assist them in navigating the university with the establishment of the First-Generation Task Force as well as promoting Supplemental Instruction and tutoring.
What’s next in addressing retention and graduation rates
Both Anson and Beckett emphasized the need to build up services like Supplemental Instruction when it comes to addressing retention and graduation rates at the UI.
“A big thing that we are doing is trying to build up Supplemental Instruction. We’ve increased participation 40 percent almost every year. Last year we had 20,000 visits to the Academic Resource Center,” Beckett said. “I think a lot of this is just trying to change students’ attitudes towards tutoring and seeking help.”
Anson emphasized the importance on working to grow student success through programs such as Supplemental Instruction.
“When we think about efforts that will help facilitate student retention, we always have to pause and think actually what we are really trying to do is contribute to student learning and make a more positive experience all around,” she said. “Retention is the byproduct of that.”