Graduation rates still lag for some Lakers

By Lanthorn Editorial Board | 1/24/16 10:37pm


Within recent years, Grand Valley State University has reached some pretty impressive milestones. The student population is now over 25,000 students, there are officially more than 100,000 laker alumni, and new academic buildings continue to pop up around campus. When the majority of things seem to be looking on the upside, sometimes it takes a look between the lines to see where we are still behind.

In Drew Howard's article, "GV named one of 14 'most improving colleges," GVSU was given a nod by Time magazine as one of the top 14 most improved colleges in the U.S. With a 20 percent increase of four-year graduates in just 15 years, it seems as if GVSU has gone through a spectacular transformation on improving graduation rates, as most institutions have not achieved similar feats so quickly.

While growth of the university has likely led to a positive impact on graduation rates, GVSU has actively been working hard to help students set out on a course of study that they're sure to finish. Resources like the CLAS Academic Advising Center and the Grand Finish grant are in place to help all students find their place and succeed at GVSU.

Despite this, minority graduation rates still aren't as high as graduation rates for white students. This problem can stem from many differences. Statistically, minority students are more likely to be the first in their families to attend college and are also more likely to need financial assistance. Obstacles like these can make it more difficult to graduate.

Additionally, minority students are more likely to not feel as comfortable in a university setting. This can particularly be a problem at universities like GVSU that lack diversity. Without faculty and peers representing minority groups, the university experience can be an uncomfortable one. At predominantly white institutions like GVSU, it is imperative to recognize and address the fact that minority students have different needs than their white peers.

GVSU has resources to help minority students, like the Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA), the Women's Center and the Milton E. Ford LGBT Resource Center. All of these offices offer many different types of support for students. The OMA offers cultural celebrations for minorities on campus, including events for Black History Month, Native American Heritage Month and several others. The Women's Center and the LGBT Center provide several discussion and panel events each month that provide a look at different issues students may face. These things are a fabulous start, but there's more to be done.

Throughout GVSU's rapid growth, one thing that has been growing at a much slower rate is diversity on campus. It's possible that one of the reasons GVSU's graduation rate has been skyrocketing so quickly is partially due to the demographics of its students. More white students means more students who are statistically likely to graduate on time, and GVSU clearly has a wealth of students in the majority.

GVSU should be applauded for its efforts to increase graduation rates; clearly, they're working. After we're done clapping, though, let's be sure not to forget that there are still some students among the Laker population who need a little more help walking across the graduation stage.

Minority students at GVSU are 25 percent less likely to graduate than white students, and even if that number is higher than the national average, we can still do better. Let's reach another milestone, and work from every facet to help minority students achieve a higher likelihood to graduate.

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