Only one in 10 black students at Wayne State University earns a bachelor’s degree within six years of becoming a freshman, the lowest rate in the nation among public colleges with a population of 10,000 or more, according to a new study.
By comparison, the average graduation rate for black students nationwide is four times higher, at 41%, according to the report from Education Trust, a nonprofit organization. At the University of Michigan, the graduation rate among black students is 79.2%.
“Our performance gap is an embarrassment for our university, and we have a moral imperative to make it right,” Wayne State Provost Keith E. Whitfield wrote in an email to faculty and staff last week, adding that the “report raises legitimate concerns about our performance disparities.”
According to the report, 44.3% of white students at Wayne State graduate within six years of becoming a freshman.
The disparity could become an issue this week as the university begins to undergo a comprehensive examination by the Higher Learning Commission to maintain accreditation.
Black enrollment also has plummeted at an alarming rate at Wayne State, even as white and Latino enrollment has remained steady, according to records obtained by Motor City Muckraker.
Between the fall semesters of 2009 and 2015, undergraduate enrollment among black students dropped from 6,317 to 3,311 – a nearly 50% decline. During the same period, black enrollment has increased nationally by more than 50%.
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Educators have suggested that graduation rates are lower among African Americans because they are disproportionately subjected to underfunded, substandard K-12 educations. To close the achievement gaps, many universities are providing academic and financial support for disadvantaged students, according to a comprehensive study by The Education Trust.
Whitfield said the university is beginning to turn around black graduation rates and has taken a more aggressive approach to identifying struggling students and helping them get back on track.
“We have much work to do, but the trend, I believe, is pointing in the right direction, and we have excellent programs and initiatives in place to address the gap,” Whitfield said.
Over the past year, Motor City Muckraker has investigated Wayne State’s finances, graduation rates and enrollment struggles. Here’s what we’ve found so far.
- The university’s Board of Governors secretly voted on a $25,000 raise for President M. Roy Wilson, just a month after raising tuition 4.2%.
- Black enrollment has plummeted nearly 50% between 2009 and 2015.
- Wayne State entered into a risky, confidential deal with Mike Ilitch to build a new business school near his tax-funded Red Wings arena.
- The university’s financial problems prompted two top rating agencies to reduce
Wayne State’s outlook to “negative.”
- Wayne State removed the math requirement without the mandated approval of the Board of Governors.
- The university tried to keep records from becoming public by charging outrageous fees.
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Motor City Muckraker is an independent watchdog funded by donations. To help us cover more stories like this, please consider a small contribution.
Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.