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Minority retention high at MU

Retention is seen as one of MU’s few diversity successes.
Tuesday, May 11, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 4:28 p.m. CDT, Friday, July 11, 2008

Despite the negativity of last week’s report on diversity at MU, not every aspect of the university is being criticized.

The report released May 4, which chastised the university for its lack of a “comprehensive approach to diversity,” listed high retention of all underrepresented groups as one of the few things at which MU has been successful. Numbers included in the report also showed that first-time enrollment of minorities has been increasing.

Over the last decade, every minority group had a retention rate of nearly 80 percent or above, according to information in the report. Additionally, enrollment of first-time minority students has risen 20 percent over the last five years — from 425 students in 1998 to 511 in the fall of 2003.

“Being on this side of the fence you can see that there are a lot of small efforts happening toward the goal of diversifying the student body,” said Alpachino Hogue, December graduate of MU and now minority coordinator of admissions.

One program in place at MU that assists with retention of students is the Freshman Interest Groups. These are groups of about 20 first-year students with similar academic interests who take three classes together their first semester at MU, as well as live in the same residence hall. Additionally, they take a one-hour “freshman 101” class taught by an upper-level student.

In the fall of 2003, about 1,200 freshmen were enrolled in FIGs, or 25 percent of the class. Sixty-eight of these students were African Americans, accounting for 5.5 percent of the total enrollment. This proportion is lower than the 6.2 percent of the campus’ first-time freshman population that is African American. One reason for this may be that some students enroll in the Minority Achievement Program, which usually includes a class similar to the pro-seminar of FIGs, and because the two courses offer similar information, students can only receive academic credit for one or the other, said FIGs coordinator Andrew Beckett.

“The FIGs help students academically and socially integrate to the institution, and therefore, they should have a higher retention rate,” he said. Beckett has found that students in FIGs have a higher retention rate than those students that do not participate in the program, more than 5 percent higher.

Students who enroll in the MAP are assisted with the transition from high school to college by retention coordinators who provide individual attention. MAP is an MU Academic Retention Services program and the mission of Academic Retention Services is “to help students attain their ultimate goal: graduation,” according to its Web site.

Linda Garth, director of Academic Retention Services, could not be reached for comment.

Strategy

MU uses a variety of recruitment strategies to bring underrepresented minorities, including African Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans, to the school.

For example, the university often hosts visits from students and administrators from high schools in the state with large minority populations for discussions about student recruitment. Another effort is the use of United Ambassadors — a highly selective group of predominantly African American MU students — to assist the admissions office in recruiting minority students by doing everything from sending personal notes to attending high school college fairs.

“There’s always room for improvement, but I think that conversations are happening and that’s a positive thing,” Hogue said.

Although the overall minority population has increased in recent years, the proportion of African American students compared to that of the entire population, has decreased. However, MU spokesman Christian Basi said this could be due to the fact that the size of the pool from which to pull qualified African American applicants has stayed the same over the last few years.

“We are working very aggressively to make sure that we increase the different proportions of underrepresented minority students, but we do have outside obstacles that are proving difficult,” Basi said.


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