The Education Trust, a national education advocacy group, has ranked Eastern Connecticut State University as number one in a national study of the improvement of six-year graduation rates of Hispanic students among public universities and colleges. The Education Trust study examined the graduation rates of 391 public and private colleges and universities in the United States, detailing the results for African American, Hispanic and white students, as well as the overall graduation rates of all students at those institutions. For the class of full-time, first-time students entering in fall 1998, the six-year graduation rate was barely 20 percent for Hispanic students at Eastern. However, for those Hispanic students entering in 2004, the proportion who had graduated by 2010 was 57.8 percent, the largest improvement among the 228 public institutions in The Education Trust study, "Advancing to completion: increasing degree attainment by improving graduation rates and closing gaps for Hispanic students."
José Cruz, vice president for higher education policy and practice at The Education Trust, said: "The lessons are clear. What institutions of higher education do -- and don't do -- for students directly and powerfully impacts student success. The schools we've identified provide vivid sign posts on the road to boosting graduation rates at colleges and universities across the country."
Eastern's 57.8 percent graduation rate for Hispanic students is actually above Eastern's overall graduation rate of 52.4 percent for the entire entering class of 2004. In addition, Eastern's improvement rate of 37.8 percent far exceeds the overall improvement rate among the study's 391 institutions of 3.5 percent, as well as the 3.9 percent improvement rate among the study's 228 public colleges and universities.
"While we know that there is much more work to be done on our campus in supporting Latino and other underrepresented students to achieve their educational goals and graduate from college, I am very pleased ," said Eastern President Elsa Núñez. "This is a tribute to the work of our faculty and staff in providing support to students who face a myriad of issues in enrolling in and succeeding at college -- language barriers, cultural isolation, financial challenges and lack of family history as it relates to college attendance."
Núñez mentioned several grants from private and federal grant sources that have helped Eastern to identify and serve students who are academically at risk so that appropriate support systems can be activated early on. In particular, a Nellie Mae Education Foundation "Project Compass" grant and a U.S. Department of Education Title III grant have helped the University to create and improve its Student Success Model, which features additional advising staff; a revised, four-tiered advising system; faculty mentors; and a one-stop Academic Services Center that provides tutoring, math and writing instructional support for more than 10,000 student visitors a year.
"It is equally important for students of color to see familiar faces at the front of the classroom," said Núñez, indicating that Eastern has the largest percentage of minority faculty of any college or university in Connecticut. Eastern also has two pre-enrollment programs each summer for students who may not meet the University's standard entrance requirements--the Summer Proof of Ability Program, which offers an opportunity to demonstrate academic potential, and the Summer Transition at Eastern Program/Contract Admissions Program, which provides intensive instruction in study skills and foundation academics to help low-income, first-generation and traditionally under-represented students transition from high school to college.
As The Education Trust report noted. "... If America is to restore its status as first-in-the-world in degree attainment, colleges need to do more to ensure that all of their students -- especially Hispanic students -- graduate from college."