Five years after the Maryland state university system pledged to reduce by half the “graduation gap” between low-income and minority students and other college students, the gap has widened.
A progress report from the Education Trust, a Washington nonprofit committed to narrowing achievement gaps, shows that graduation rates for low-income and minority students have gone down in Maryland over the past five years, while the completion rate for all students has gone up.
It’s not the sort of momentum Maryland needs to narrow the gap; ideally, the completion rate for all students would rise, and the rate for poor and minority students would rise even faster.
Between 2005 and 2010, the EdTrust report states, the graduation rate for all students in the University System of Maryland rose one point to 63 percent. In the same years, the completion rate for low-income students dipped three points to 48 percent. The rate for underrepresented minorities slipped three points to 43 percent.
In both cases, the gap grew. Twenty points now separate the completion rates for minorities and all students.
The report shows there has been little progress toward closing the gap among the 22 state university systems participating in the Access to Success Initiative.
The initiative began with a pledge to cut in half the gap in access and success between haves and have-nots. The report shows that most of the systems are making fine progress toward raising enrollments among low-income and minority students - - those gaps are closing fast - - but no progress at all in closing the graduation gap.
As of 2010, a 16-point gap separates minority (45 percent) and non-minority (61 percent) graduation rates in the 22-system group. Fourteen points separate low-income (46 percent) and high-income (60 percent) completion rates.
At the start of the initiative five years ago, a 14-point gap separated minority and non-minority graduation rates in the 22 systems. In other words, the gap has widened rather than narrowed. I do not see a baseline “gap” by income status in the original report.
The report states: “It is important to note, however, that more than 60 percent of systems have improved graduation rates for underrepresented minorities and more than 40 percent have done so for low-income students. In other words, success gaps have remained stubborn not because success rates have not improved for underrepresented students, but rather because they haven’t improved fast enough relative to their peers.”
Despite Maryland’s lack of success in closing the gap, the state remains notable for housing at least two powerful examples of minority achievement: Towson University, where minority graduation gaps have been eradicated, and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, which has both closed achievement gaps and pioneered a far more ambitious level of African American achievement in doctoral-level study, particularly in the sciences.