IBHE report finds low retention

By Vickie Snow

NIU still lags behind other Regency universities’ graduation and retention rates for minority and transfer students despite some recent improvements.

All three universities governed by the Board of Regents showed better, but still low, retention and graduation rates for minority students, the report stated.

Regents Chancellor Roderick Groves said minorities historically have low graduation rates, but their retention record is improving and shows “steady improvement.”

The Board of Regents governs NIU, Illinois State University at Normal and Sangamon State University in Springfield.

Transfer and white students have the highest graduation rates, according to a summary of the 1990 Statistical Study of Graduation and Retention in the Regency Chancellor’s Report.

SSU has higher minority retention rates than NIU, according to the persistence data of 1980 through 1985.

“African-American transfer students at SSU persist at higher levels than either new freshmen or transfer African-American students at ISU and NIU,” the Regency report stated.

NIU also might be behind ISU for minority graduation retention according to a similar study by the Illinois Board of Higher Education of 1980 freshmen and transfers.

The IBHE report shows NIU’s freshman graduation rate is 51 percent, while ISU’s is 56 percent. However, the statewide average is only 49 percent.

NIU’s graduation rate for blacks in 1980 is 18 percent, while ISU’s is 30 percent, the IBHE report stated.

However, ISU and NIU are “both showing marked gains in retention for post-1980 cohorts, especially recently, and for Hispanic and African-American students,” the IBHE report stated.

At NIU, Hispanic students have a graduation rate of 45 percent, while black students are at 18 percent, the Regency report stated. The rate for all students is about 50 percent.

In order to improve graduation and retention rates, the universities are trying to raise enrollment of minorities.

“Minority transfer students at ISU and NIU still number very few … although there has been improvement at all three Regency universities,” according to the Regency report.

ISU and SSU have made “substantial progress in increasing enrollment” of minority transfer students while NIU has a pattern of a “modest numerical increase.

“In general, the percentage of minority students in the full student bodies has risen since 1980, especially at the freshmen level,” according to the report.

NIU freshmen enrollment for blacks and Hispanics has slightly increased in the past decade. In 1980, blacks made up about 9 percent of NIU’s total enrollment, and 1989 data shows slightly more than 12 percent.

Overall Hispanic enrollment at NIU increased from 2 percent to about 4 percent during that time.

NIU has the highest percentage of the three Regency schools of Hispanic transfer students.

Transfer enrollment increased between 1980 and 1989 for Hispanics, rising from less than 1 percent to about 3 percent, but not for blacks, falling from more than 3 percent to 2 percent.

The report was conducted by the Regency system because it considers graduation and retention of minorities “a high priority.”

SSU’s success with black transfer students lies with “recruitment of academically prepared students and personalized attention,” the Regency report stated.

The Regency report recommends more student services for minority transfer students in their first year to improve retention records.