As the Commonwealth’s flagship institution, UK plays an important leadership role in demonstrating how an inclusive and welcoming educational environment contributes directly to the economic development and quality of life for Kentuckians and beyond. The University reports each year on its 2011-2015 Annual Diversity Plan as required by the state’s Council on Postsecondary Education’s Committee on Equal Opportunities. Earlier this month UK officials submitted an Assessment Report describing progress at UK covering the two academic years of 2011-12 to 2012-13. The report highlights a crucial aspect to UK’s work in this important part of its mission: collaboration across units and colleges creates a synergy of innovation and passion for improvement.
The report focuses on four key areas: Student Body Diversity; Student Success/Closing the Achievement Gap; Workforce Diversity; and, Campus Climate. Highlights from the report about UK’s undergraduates and collaborations including the Division of Undergraduate Education are described below.
UK proposed closing the gap between current enrollment numbers of Black or African American and Hispanic or Latino students at UK and the overall state demographic populations. We are nearly there! Below is the chart of Undergraduate-Level Student Enrollments in Fall 2003, Fall 2011 and Fall 2012 showing the closing of the gap over this past decade.
The 2012-13 academic year produced UK’s most diverse student body to date with a total non-White population of nearly 24%. These results have come in no small part to the extraordinary efforts from all the academic units and colleges who worked with the professional staff in Enrollment Management to boost attendance at the See Blue Preview Nights around the state and beyond as well as the Come See For Yourself events here on campus (see a previous Blade post on these activities).
An exciting challenge for us all at UK is the University’s objective to reduce and eventually eliminate differences in achievement at UK for Black or African American and Hispanic or Latino students in comparison to White students. One performance indicator for closing this achievement gap is in the first- to second-year retention rate. The chart below shows the fluctuations from year to year that we might study more carefully to find lessons for future success.
UK’s leadership is committed to President Capilouto’s vision of “Kentucky’s Promise” which – at its core – assumes that a world class education requires exposure to students with different attitudes, backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives. And, the University Faculty designed the exciting new requirements for UK’s general education, the UK Core Program, which rolled out officially in Fall 2011 and has an increasing potential for moving the bar higher. One of four of the UK Core Program’s Learning Outcomes is that UK undergraduate degreeholders “will demonstrate an understanding of the complexities of citizenship and the process for making informed choices as engaged citizens in a diverse, multilingual world.” All degree-seeking students must successfully complete two courses, each with a topical or regional focus. (See an update on the UK Core Program in a previous Blade post.) As more of UK’s undergraduate community of learners – and the faculty and support staff who guide them to success – undertake these academic challenges, the University’s overall success in fulfilling “Kentucky’s Promise” will be seen in improved retention and graduation rates, academic success rates and campus climate.
Many important transition-to-college programs and services are described in the report (download the .pdf file here). Some of the collaborations featured in the report are those led by CARES and SSS in the Office of Institutional Diversity, 1G Initiatives and Honors in the Division of Undergraduate Education, and the Office of the Dean of Students in Student Affairs. The exciting work already under way at UK in creating a seamless transition from high school has been bolstered with UK’s first dual credit program partnership with Fayette County Public Schools: the STEAM Academy (see previous posts). Another initiative that requires multiple forms of collaboration and innovation across support units and the colleges are the University’s many Living Learning Programs and Residential Colleges. Most of these communities comprise first-year students, and the statistical evidence of student retention for UK’s official graduating cohorts is overwhelming in showing the successes from the programming and climate engendered in these highly collaborative initiatives.
Even though there is no specific metric in UK’s Strategic Plan to measure second- to third-year persistence rates, more effort in the last several years has gone into raising the awareness of the complexities in UK students’ sophomore year experience. (See for example, a previous post on gender differences in UK’s retention and graduation rates.) Student Affairs and Undergraduate Education have taken on several new initiatives described in the report to address the “sophomore slump” with new campus-wide programming. These new initiatives clearly had an effect on the persistence gap between African American and White students in our official graduating cohort who entered in Fall 2010 and persisted through their sophomore year to return to UK in their third year.
The second-year to third-year retention gap between Black of African American and White students decreased from 14.9% for the cohort entering in 2009 to 7.3% for the Fall 2010 cohort. The new initiatives in 2012-13 created by the Office of Student Success (which recently transitioned to the Division of Undergraduate Education) should also see results in graduation rates as we continue working in this area.
The University continues to strive to reach its lofty goal to increase the six-year graduation rate to 64% – and to close disparities in those rates between students of color and White students. The overall graduation rate for the graduating cohort of Fall 2006 – which also had that precipitous retention rate in their second year, launching the University’s “War on Attrition” in 2007 – was predictably one of the University’s lowest ever. However, the graduation rate gap reduced from traditional ranges between 11-21% to less than 10%!
While the above chart reflects the degrees conferred on UK’s official graduating cohort, the next chart includes all the undergraduate degrees awarded – including our transfer and part-time students. (This increase in overall degrees conferred is an important statewide effort also: see more on this at the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education’s data portal.) While we may be within reach of our goal of conferring 3,925 degrees per academic year by 2014, the number of bachelor degrees awarded to Black or African American and Hispanic or Latino students has increased only marginally. So there is much work to be done still in closing this student success gap.
There are many other items of interest to review in the report, including the diversity programs, services and strategies undertaken by the undergraduate colleges (starting from page 56 on). Your comments and feedback for continuous improvement are greatly welcomed.
|HOLD THE DATE!
April 7, 2014 – Summit on Diversity
Hosted by Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education