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USA: This century unlikely to see graduation gap close

Although more than two-thirds of all US four-year public colleges and universities increased their graduation rates between 2003 and 2013, the progress has been uneven and minorities continue to lag behind. That is the main finding of a new report released on 2 December by the Education Trust, an advocacy organisation that promotes high academic achievement for all students regardless of their race or socioeconomic background. The report, Rising Tide: Do College Grad Rate Gains Benefit All Students?, examined 489 public and 820 private institutions to find out how they fare on the graduation rates of underrepresented minority students (URMs), including African American, Latino, and Native students. 

The study found that 77% of those public institutions that enrol a size-able population of underrepresented students and improved their overall graduation rates during this period also managed to improve graduation rates for underrepresented minority students. While the decade saw overall graduation rates increase by 5.3%, the rates for underrepresented students rose only by 6.7% and are thus not improving fast enough to close the gap in completion between racial groups in this century. The figures suggest that underrepresented students are still not graduating at the same rate as white students were already a decade ago, and a whopping 14% gap in completion remains between them today. Among underrepresented students, the largest gains were made by Latino students (7.4%), followed by Native students (6.4%). Black students are the minority students most underserved by US colleges, displaying only a 4.4% improvement rate. 

The report also highlighted the institutions that are achieving the dual goal of increasing rates for all students while narrowing the racial gap. Successful institutions tend to focus on retention and getting students to graduate with a degree sooner. For instance, measures can include remedial summer courses before the first semester, peer-mentoring, requiring students to take a certain number of credit hours per semester and holding them to high GPA standards.  Press release Full report