31 December 2005

CU Statistics

A story on C.U.'s admissions policies provides a mixed bag of statistics.

Graduation rates are the good news:

[T]he graduation rate for black students has improved from 32 percent to 59 percent; for Hispanics, from 48 percent to 59 percent; and for Asians, from 48 percent to 62 percent.

The overall graduation rate for minority students is 60 percent - just seven points lower than for white students. That relatively small difference puts CU in the top 10 percent of all four-year colleges in the nation[.]

While the lack of racial disparity is a good thing, however, the fact that a third or more of students are not making it, despite solid academic backgrounds coming in, is not very impressive.

The bad news: "Colorado remains 48th in the nation for participation of minority students in higher education."

It would be nice to know if this is in absolute terms or relative to the demographics of the state, although being 48th in any state ranking is usually a bad thing.

And, in between:

In 2004, 32 percent of Colorado's white high school graduates who applied to a state college had a college-eligibility index of 103 or greater. Graduating in the upper third of the class, having a 3.4 grade-point average and a 985 on the SAT would earn a 103, according to the Colorado Commission on Higher Education's formula.

But only 13 percent of black high school graduates had a score of 103 or higher. Among Hispanic high school graduates, 15 percent reached that score.

Each state-supported college has its own index score for regular admission. Each college also is allowed to admit about 14 percent of students who don't meet that score. At CU, the minimum score is 103. . . .

CU admitted 93 percent of black students who achieved the necessary score, 94 percent of Hispanics, 97 percent of Asians and 88 percent of white students.

The so-called yield - the percentage of students who actually enrolled after being accepted . . . was 49 percent for all accepted students, and the same 49 percent for "students of color." The yield among black students was 37 percent.

Missing from the report are information on the breakdown of admittees in the 14% who don't make the cut off score, which is highly relevant to interpeting the graduation rate data. Are graduation rates high because few students with lower scores and grades are admitted, or because the school is providing a supportive environment?

It is also worth noting that C.U. admissions standards are not terribly stringent. Just about every student who is in the top third of his class and earning a 3.4 GPA ought to be able score 985 on the SATs, which is in the vicinity of the 50th percentile. And, given that only about 40% of high school graduates nationwide attend college and only about 25% graduate (I'm working from memory on the numbers here), asking that applicants be in the top third of their class, unless they can show some special circumstances that call for their admission, is hardly asking a lot for admission into the state's "flagship" institution.

The CU party line on the statistics seems to be don't blame us, racial disparities reflect what is going on in high school or below. Fair enough, and perhaps these statistics mitigate anecdotal evidence. But, there are enough gaps in what we know that it is hard to feel very definitive about that conclusion.

No comments: