If you haven’t read Who Gets to Graduate?, a New York Times article by Paul Tough, you should. The article points out that some relatively simple interventions being used at the University of Texas are associated with significant improvements in retention and graduation rates for college students who belong to minority or economically-disadvantaged groups. These are the very students who represent an increasing proportion of the total undergraduate population in the USA but are most at risk of not completing a college education.
The treatments that have been so effective are designed to strengthen students’ beliefs that they belong in college and that they have the ability to succeed in college. So logical it’s obvious, you might think, but you should ask yourself these questions:
- How much of your university’s curricular content and delivery, especially for the courses that students encounter in the first year of college, sends the opposite message?
- Does your university collect data so that it knows not just which students fail, but why, and at what point the downward slide begins?
- What do you do in and outside of the classroom that encourages a sense of belonging and ability among different groups of students? Do you even know what backgrounds students might be coming from?