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By this time each year, college seniors are counting down the days until commencement. But it turns out that reaching the finish line—that is, graduation—is not a straight run for all students. Data from hundreds of universities across the United States show that underrepresented minority students don’t graduate at the same rates as white students. Educators call it the achievement gap. It's a challenge that San Diego State University has worked diligently — and successfully — to address.SDSU is one of only 26 universities in the nation to have increased six-year graduation rates for all students while also closing the gap between minority and white student graduation rates.The results are based on 2003-2013 data analyzed by the Education Trust, a non-profit advocacy organization that promotes high academic achievement for all students, particularly students of color and low-income students. The Education Trust looked at graduation rates for white students and underrepresented minority students at 489 public and 820 private universities over the 10-year period.
Its report recognized SDSU for cutting the achievement gap in half while simultaneously increasing the population of underrepresented minority students enrolled at the undergraduate level. The number of underrepresented student graduates at SDSU increased by 22.5 percentage points during the 10-year period, while the gap between white and minority graduates closed by 7.8 percentage points, the fifth best performance among the 489 public universities analyzed. The Education Trust has consistently applauded SDSU for national leadership in improving graduation rates, especially among students of color. Eric Rivera, vice president of Student Affairs, said the university’s tenacious 15-year focus on student success and achievement is responsible for the change.Since 2013, SDSU has taken further steps to ensure success for all students, including: increasing the number of academic advisers and tenure track faculty; decreasing class size; creating campus writing and math tutoring centers; investing in programs to recruit and retain underrepresented students; strengthening internship and mentoring programs; investing in commuter student programs; and other initiatives developed through Building on Excellence, SDSU’s strategic plan.
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