For many years, the national college graduation rate of Black students has lagged the graduation rate of White students by 20 percentage points or more. (See JBHE post.) Colleges and universities across the United States have struggled to increase the retention and graduation rates of their Black students.
At the University of South Florida in Tampa, the six-year graduation rate for Black students who entered the university in 1999 was 50 percent. The six-year graduation rate for students who entered the university 10 years later in 2009 was 69 percent.
The Black Faculty and Staff Association at the university has been active for 45 years. Its mission includes not only helping Black faculty and staff at the university but helping Black students adjust to college life and succeed at the university. One initiative that appears to have met with success is the association’s Mentor/Mentee Match program. A large group of Black students are paired with faculty and staff members who provide support and advice to aid the students in their path to graduation.
Gene Murdock, president of the Black Faculty and Staff Association and vice provost for human resources at the university, said that “mentor relationships can directly contribute to improving student retention rates and increasing the number of students entering graduate programs. They also help students advance through school at a faster pace, be more productive, and be more responsible for the choices they make.”