Minority Retention and Graduation Rates at YSU – Where the Disconnect Lies


I’yonna Taylor-Smith

It’s no secret that Youngstown State University is struggling to keep their minorities on campus and that shows in retention rates, graduation rates, and satisfaction surveys.

Kyra Lowery, an undecided Sophomore said that she can see the diversity on campus increasing.

“I feel like the diversity on campus has been increasing more with a focus on international and foreign students, and the focus on local African-American or other diversity based students gets kind of overshadowed by that. Also, retention rates are a lot lower in African-American students and I feel like that is a contribution to the lack of focus,” Lowery said.

In the 2014-2015 academic year, minority retention rates were at 50.1 percent, which black students specifically had a retention rate of 44.8 percent. During the same academic year, white students had a retention rate at 72.4 percent.

In a 2015 Jambar story titled YSU Struggles to Recruit, Retain, And Graduate Minority Students, written by Liam Bouquet, they spoke to the Vice President of Student Affairs Jack Fahey. In the story, they noted that Fahey believes that “as a result of problems from income to inner city schools, these students were not ready.”

Jacob Schriner-Briggs, Executive Vice President of Student Government Association said he thinks there is work to
be done, however SGA and the university has been making efforts.

“I think that in the context of Student Government specifically, we have acknowledged that the concept of celebrating diversity and the need to celebrate diversity is one that can’t be ignored. It can’t be swept under the rug” Schriner-Briggs said.

Schriner-Briggs added that
they have a committee that “looks at issues of awareness, inclusion, and elements of diversity and then to reflect and to ensure that the institution, both the university itself and student government are doing what they need to do to ensure that diversity is celebrated and that we don’t have access barriers to students pertaining to specific demographic groups, identities, etcetera.”

2016 National Survey of Student Engagement for Youngstown State University

Jaylin Archie, member of The Black Student Union on campus said he believes that the school is making slow progress with diversity.

He said, “I believe after the election of Donald Trump, the Student Government Association has just found that it’s important to try and spread awareness and diversity, so they are now trying to make efforts after the election of Donald Trump. I believe that the university is trying to make efforts of diversity, trying to bring in different speakers and events.”

He added, “I honestly feel as though my white counterparts are very unwilling to change. A lot of people from YSU come from the surrounding cities where there is a very low number of African- American students or ethnic students, so they are not exposed to those kinds of students. They are not exposed to those backgrounds, so they stick to what it is that they know.”

Archie also believes that the racial
tension at YSU is different and people
receive side eye looks when you talk to
“people outside of your race or political background and something real revolutionary needs to happen on this campus.”

Anthony Hines, another member of the BSU said “They’re trying to make efforts but it’s far from completion.”

Hines also added, “I don’t feel like there’s an urge to change it. I feel like the black people of color, especially black people on campus are making more efforts for diversity than the white counterparts. So that’s the biggest thing, and its nothing new really, so the struggle is real. Gonna’ keep fighting.”

In YSU’s 2016 National Survey of Student Engagement, there was a section specifically for students on if they checked the boxes marked “Very often” or “Often” on speaking to others outside of their following: race/ ethnicity, economic background, religious background, and political background.

YSU’s Peer Comparison Group

YSU PEER Comparison Group is only applicable to NSSE Survey

These statistics are gathered in the Spring semester after Spring break and are compared to ‘peer colleges’, which are schools that are similar to us in size, ratios, and other groups. The downfall of this survey is that there is only a 25 percent (475 students) response rate for first-year students and a 28 percent (642 students) response rate for seniors.

As incoming YSU freshmen, less than 70 percent of speak to others across all boards. As seniors, the percentage only goes up roughly 10 percent, which is better than the rest of YSU’s peers.

In the video below statistics of the black population at YSU are shown and personal statements from college students around the United States regarding their institutions and diversity.

[Insert Video here]

Video Transcript:

Christal Shannon of California State University, Northridge: “At my university, it is very evident that they, the administration does the bare minimum to satisfy the black population. With it being a Hispanic serving institute, it is hard for us black students to get the recognition and funding we need for our extracurricular activities, as well as our education. The lack of representation within the offices of the difference schools on the university makes it hard for us to find those who look like us who are willing to help us excel and graduate.”

Franklin Chesney of Kent State University: “I feel that, my school is slowly starting to be able to cater to the black community more than what they used to before. It took them a few years to actually seem like they actually cared about the community and the things that we did, as far as events we throw and thongs that we actually do on the campus. We’re not completely there yet, but it’s definitely a progress over the years compared to what it was before.”

Terrance Rowell of Youngstown State University: “I feel that YSU does not show love to no minorities really. I really don’t hear nothing about each minority for real, or even a majority of them because I don’t really know that they’re there unless I go out and speak to them or see them. I don’t hear about none of their organizations, or anything as much really.”

Ray Wilson of The Ohio State University: “I’d say OSU’s pretty accommodating when it comes to minorities, but more so when it comes to black minorities more so than others. We have a multicultural center in our Student Union and we also have Hale Hall which is a black cultural center on our South campus. We also have a Black Student Association [BSA] which is a Big 6 organization on campus and they plan weekly events, as well as providing scholarship opportunities. There’s also like I said, less representation for other minorities specifically Muslim and Arabic students. But I would say overall OSU does put forth an effort to protect and represent all minorities”

Malcolm Bryan of SUNY Albany: “My alma mater does a really good job with inclusivity due to the fact that three of our last SA presidents have been black or Latino. Our student orgs traditionally get the highest funding, for at Latino gets the most funding from SA, followed by ASUBA which is Albany State University Black Alliance. So, you know, we get funding and all of that stuff. It also has to do with that we have a very vibrant Greek community involving black and multicultural orgs so that also plays a big part. Also, our orgs are really active on campus so while we’re not the majority by any means, we show out the most and we do the most stuff on campus as far as being seen and what not so they don’t really have that much of a choice. Also, the president of the school was black for my matriculation so…”

Jermaine Jackson of Kent State University: “I like my school because it has many different groups for minority students to fit in and feel like they’re at home even though they are miles away from where they’re comfortable. They cater to the black community by hosting events that aren’t exclusively black, but a majority of the black students participate in. Like watching Greek organizations, cookouts, performances, events, talent shows and things like that.”

Kevin Green of Presbyterian College: “Honestly, there is a visible disconnect between the minorities and majorities on our campus; seeing that i go to a very small PWI where the African-American population only makes up about 2% of campus, and most of us are athletes. So, you can definitely tell that there is a rift between the white and black community, whether it be the student or the staff.

-end video-

So how does YSU fix the 29.7% gap between their students?

According to AJC, Georgia State University had a gap percentage mildly above YSU’s and completely eliminated it within 10 years and now graduates more black students the any other institution in the united states.

With more black oriented programs, more black professors, tuition help, and a stronger connection with advisors and students, the gap was eliminated.

The graduation rate for black students at GSU grew from 29 to 57 percent, which is higher than for white students. Hispanics went from 22 to 54 percent. The number for lower-income students (eligible for a federal Pell grant) receiving degrees in 2014 was 51 percent.

GSU’s black professor percentage is around 10%. According to the assessment office, for YSU, that percentage is around 2%.

GSU also grew the number of black, Hispanic and low-income students by 10 percent. About one-third of the university’s students are black. The national average black population at state institutions are at 5%.

For students who left GSU due to financial issues, they also began “retention grants” to help those in need of money. Suppose YSU follows in the footsteps of GSU, maybe the numbers will skyrocket also.

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