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March 14, 2013

Commission calls for closing college ‘achievement gap’

INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana Commission on Higher Education wants the state’s colleges and universities to be more aggressive in closing the graduation “achievement gap” for Hispanic and black students, who are dropping out of college at a significantly higher rate than white students.

The commission passed a resolution Tuesday that calls on the state’s higher education institutions to publicly set targets for closing the completion rate gap for black and Hispanic students.

And to push those institutions along, the commission pledged to start publishing the college completion rates of minority students for each of the state’s colleges and universities in an annual report.   

Prompting the action is data collected by the commission that found that only 16 percent of black students and 35 percent of Hispanic students enrolled in the state’s public colleges and universities were graduating within four years, compared to the 40 percent rate for white students.

The six-year completion rate for white students is 59 percent, compared to 53 percent for Hispanic students and 34 percent for black students.

“Indiana has a moral and economic imperative to dramatically increase the success rates of all Indiana college students,” said Indiana Commissioner for Higher Education Teresa Lubbers. “Far too many students start college and never finish, and we cannot afford to leave another generation of Hoosiers behind.”

The commission has already set an ambitious goal for raising the numbers of Hoosiers with post-secondary degrees to 60 percent of the population by 2025.

Currently, only a third of Hoosiers have completed education beyond high school, ranking Indiana 40th nationally in education attainment.

The commission now wants to close the achievement gap by 2025 as well, which means colleges and universities would be graduating their minority students at the same pace and rate as their white students.

Lubbers said the goal is ambitious, but worthy.

“What’s the alternative?,” she said. “To not close the gap? We don’t think so.”

Maureen Hayden covers the Statehouse for the CNHI newspapers in Indiana. She can be reached at maureen.hayden@indianamediagroup.com.

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