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Racial achievement gap should be a top priority

By | March 07, 2014 | Opinion

On Wednesday, The Collegian published a story about the substantial disparity in graduation rates between whites and people of other ethnicities.

The statistics should be shocking and a call to action to anyone who knows them:

only 27.1 percent of whites graduate within four years at Fresno State, but even more startling is the fact that blacks graduate at a rate of just 7.4 percent, Latinos at 11 percent and Asians at 8.1 percent.

Professors speculate that this is caused by a myriad of different factors. However, one thing is certain: besides keeping the lights on and attracting world-class teachers, one of Fresno State’s top priorities should be changing this disturbing trend.

It’s not just a matter of increasing the percentages of graduates for some statistic, because our students are more than just numbers. It’s about creating a generation where everyone has the ability to succeed, regardless of race.

Fresno State prides itself on being an institution of diversity and accessibility, but those assets come with an obligation. While it’s easy to admit students across racial and economic backgrounds, the university must deliver, equip and graduate those people with the tools to succeed.

While the university does have commendable programs that aim to achieve this goal, it must redouble its commitment to closing the achievement gap. Unfortunately, that requires us to adjust our priorities on campus.

Last month, two student fee hikes were proposed. One would be aimed at student success, and although most students might see any fee hike as unacceptable, it would dedicate more money to improving graduation rates.

The other was for athletics. Although both fee hikes have been stalled and will not even be discussed until next year, President Joseph Castro’s administration planned for the athletics fee hike to be higher than the student success fee.

“The idea is that academics and athletics should rise in a parallel fashion — that they are an integral part of the university from both sides,” said interim provost Andrew Hoff.

This philosophy is simply ridiculous. We love athletics and are inspired by the dedication of every student-athlete, but to say that at a university academics and sports are of the same level of importance is misguided and contributes to our disparity.

We must accept that we are an academic institution, and although stadium lights and frantic fans don’t greet our students’ arrival to class, that should be Fresno State’s real mission.If we had a coach who only won one in 12 games year after year, he or she would be fired. But that’s the same ratio of blacks or Asians who will graduate in four years at Fresno State. Even the 27.1 percent chance that whites will graduate in that time is troubling.

To be certain, this problem may stem from student’s preparedness as they enter college. Changes may be needed beginning with K-12 education, but at this university the buck stops here. As the highest education in the Central Valley, it’s time for Fresno State to lead, for now and for posterity.

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