Focused on Outcomes, More Students are Graduating

July 8, 2012 | CUNY Matters, The University

Graduation rates of black and Latino students in University baccalaureate programs have increased sharply over the past decade, according to a recent analysis by the Office of Institutional Research.

In 2001, only 26 percent of Latino students at the senior colleges had  graduated  six years after their 1995 enrollment as first-time freshmen. But a decade later, in 2011 the six-year graduation rate for Latino students who had enrolled in 2005 was up to 43 percent.

Among black students, the six-year graduation rate has gone from 28 percent to 41 percent in the same period.

The data provide an early snapshot of an upcoming study by University Institutional Research in enrollment, graduation rates and other student outcomes for the ten-year period beginning  2001 and ending 2011. The report is scheduled for release in the upcoming academic year.

While the numbers tell an encouraging story for the University’s efforts to promote enrollment and success in bachelor programs by minority students, the figures are noteworthy because the graduation rates began rising when CUNY tightened academic standards.

In 2000, CUNY began requiring incoming freshmen to pass reading, writing and math skills tests and eliminated remedial courses from bachelor degree programs. Opponents at the time predicted the changes would lead to a drop in enrollment of immigrant and minority students at the senior colleges.

Instead, there have been enrollment increases in all categories and steady improvement in academic performance and higher graduation rates. One finding is that progress for Hispanic students  continues in periods of economic decline. Hispanics have continued to boost graduation rates through the recession that began in 2008, rising five percentage points since then.

CUNY’s overall six-year graduation rates for all  baccalaureate programs have increased from 35  percent in 2001 to nearly 50  percent in 2011.

The Institutional Research findings come at time when several external publications and research institutions have cited the University and its colleges for graduation rate increases among low income and under-represented minority students.  The Educational Trust reported that degrees awarded in 2010 in these categories were up by 15 percent and 14 percent respectively.

The June issue of Diverse Issues In Higher Education found that five CUNY colleges are ranked among the top 55 nationally for African-American students receiving baccalaureate degrees.  For Hispanic students, six CUNY colleges were ranked in the top 100 nationally.

And in mid-June, MDRC, an education and social research firm, reported that CUNY’s innovative ASAP programs at the community colleges have increased the proportion of students who enrolled in college during the second semester by 10 percentage points and full-time enrollment that semester by 21 percentage points.