By Dr. Rona Tamiko Halualani
According to a March 2016 Washington Post article ("Similar colleges. Similar population of black students. So why the disparate graduation rates?"), it does matter what higher educational institutions do by way of retention-graduation efforts and diversity and inclusion efforts. The article reviews a report ("Rising Tide II: Do Black Students Benefit as Grad Rates Increase?") out of The Education Trust that examined college completion rates and outcomes at comparable institutions. In particular, the report and article highlight that two institutions -- Rutgers University-New Brunswick and Purdue University -- with a few similar characteristics, have divergent graduation rates. The article then states, "A new report from Education Trust suggests that such divergent trends at comparable universities prove that what schools do to serve black students plays a pivotal role in their achievement. Schools that make a concerted effort to provide academic and financial support, as well as create a welcoming environment for African Americans are having the greatest success in helping them earn degrees."
I, along with my team, have made this argument through Halualani & Associates' diversity mapping methodology since 2007 (and a new retention-graduation efforts mapping methodology); that what institutions do and invest in (by way of resourced actions and strategies) matters. There is no magical formula for bringing about needed change; instead, the true pathway to change requires thoughtful and responsive action, unwavering commitment and investment on the part of institutions, and a sense of resilience against potential societal and political backlash against diversity infrastructures and efforts. Simply put, actions (and not just words) matter for the long haul. Moreover, actions need to be engaged in over time and with an eye on impact and campus change, and effective actions may take time and not everything can be scaled up or all at once.
This may seem to be an obvious argument but somehow along the way, those of us in higher education have lost sight of this key principle: institutional actions do matter.
For the full article and access to the report, see:
For information on diversity mapping: