WOU named first for small graduation gap between white, Hispanic students

By Justin Much
Statesman Journal

Western Oregon University said last week that it’s ranked No. 1 in the nation for having the smallest gap in white-Hispanic graduation rates among colleges.

A report released by The Education Trust on Aug. 9 listed WOU’s gap at minus 5.9 percent.

The three-year average graduation rate for white students between 2006-08 was 43 percent; for Hispanics it’s 48.9 percent.

Florida International University had a minus 5.5 percent rate, Georgia State University minus 4.3 percent, University of North Carolina at Charlotte was minus 4.2 percent and Georgia Tech was minus 3.9 percent to round out the top five schools.

The study noted that although colleges and universities are enrolling more Hispanic students, a boost to graduation rates within that population is necessary to demonstrate increased success rates. The study spotlighted colleges and universities that are serving Hispanic students well, evidenced by small or nonexistent graduation-rate gaps between Hispanic and white students.

By contrast, the largest white-Hispanic gap was found at Millersville University of Pennsylvania, 29.7 percent, with the three-year average graduation rates for whites at 67.1 percent; 37.4 percent for Hispanics.

The survey projected that by 2050 Latinos will make up nearly one-third of the work force in the U.S., illustrating a need to promote recruitment and retention of this group by universities and colleges. Only 13 percent of young adult Latinos hold bachelor’s degrees, compared with 39 percent of whites and 21 percent for blacks.

WOU has made strides to that end.

“Western Oregon University, where 8 percent of the undergraduates are Latino, has greatly improved the graduation rates of such students during the past decade,” the TET publication said.

“In 2002, 36 percent of Latino students who had entered Western Oregon six years earlier had graduated, but in 2008, more than half completed their degrees. (Hispanics are) more than closing the gap with their white classmates. This improvement is the result of deliberate, purposeful work by the university.”