Around the nation, minority students are speaking out against administrations for not taking strong enough action against racism on campus. Most notably, students at the University of Missouri recently ousted their system president.
Administrators should start listening, argues Andre Perry in the Washington Post, and focus on fostering a diverse community for students of color. Without that support, minority retention rates plummet.
Perry cites research showing that much students study is not the only factor deciding if they make it to graduation. Campus climate is intrinsically linked to academic success, he argues. Research shows that peer relations on campus influence how students of color perform and succeed. For example, a study at the University of Washington found that black students—and only black students—suffered statically significant lower GPAs when the campus climate was hostile.
This is a matter of "college survival itself," Perry says, in environments where students of color feel discriminated against, they graduate at lower rates and jeopardize future successes, such as job prospects and paying off student loans.
However, minority students who attend colleges and universities that support their needs are likely to feel better prepared for the workplace and life after college, according to recent research by Gallup. Black students who attend historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), which traditionally foster a positive learning environment for minority students, are more likely to "strongly agree that their colleges prepared them for life after graduation"—55% of students agree at HBCUs, as opposed to 29% at other institutions, according to a recent Gallup survey.
Researcher Sylvia Hurtado explains it this way: "Just as a campus that embraces diversity provides substantial positive benefits, a hostile or discriminatory climate has substantial negative consequences."
Perry argues that administrations should be focusing on the specific needs of minority communities on campus to boost their students' success and retain all students. Support structures like living-learning communities, which support students both in and out of the classroom, can be a vital tool in ensuring students of color make it across the graduation stage (Perry, "PostEverything," Washington Post, 11/11).
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