For years, universities across the nation have workshopped ideas for improving graduation rates among minority students. UNC programs are developing methods to uplift Black male graduation rates in particular, and are seeing results.
In 2003, the four-year graduation rate of Black males was almost 30 percent behind the University average. In the past two years, however, that gap has dropped to just below 20 percent.
“Is there still a gap? Certainly. But is it narrowing? Indeed it is,” said Christopher Faison, former coordinator of the UNC Men of Color Engagement.
Faison said as the graduation gap continues to dwindle, the University’s role has increasing importance.
“No one is going to want to bring people into a situation that’s not healthy,'' said Faison. “If we focus on what we have first — that’s what we try to do — then you can get more (enrollment from men of color.)”
Ronald Harris, a recent graduate of UNC, spoke to that build-from-within mentality.
“Your success at Carolina — besides being able to handle your academics — is also being able to find a support system. And that isn’t something very intuitive and easy to come by.”
In an effort to make the search for communities of inclusion easier, UNC has implemented programs such as the Office for Diversity & Inclusion, UNC Mxn of Color and Minority Men in Medicine, among others.
“You can start to network. You can see more people that look like you, that are doing the same things, that are seeing the same challenges," Harris said. "Being able to learn from them and learn from faculty and staff of color shows that there is a community. There is a camaraderie.”
Another recent graduate, Marty Davidson, pointed out these efforts aimed at minority males are but the first step for addressing the inequities seen on campus, and that the Black male experience is intertwined with that of other groups.
“Another vulnerable group who also needs to be looked after is minority women, first-gen students, low-income students, transfer students. These are all different vulnerable populations on UNC’s campus,” said Davidson.
As for the continuation of the program’s success moving forward, Harris said, “In order to get from good to better, we may need to adjust some of our policies and the ways in which we interact with students.”
Formalizing these communities has proven to be effective in improving the graduation rates of minority students, and with any luck, will continue to produce results in the years to come.
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