Students, university must push for success

Kernel Editorial Board

With UK’s goal of becoming a top-20 university a mere 10 years away, it’s time to buckle down and focus on one of the main problem areas: retention within minority groups. One of these groups of students is receiving a higher level of attention as a result.

According to an April 5 Kernel article, Hispanic students at the university have seen a rise in retention rates over the last few years.

In the first study, conducted between 1999 and 2001, the graduation rate for the freshmen class was 49 percent for Hispanics, compared to 61 percent for white students. The second half of the study, 2001-2003, saw the Hispanic graduation rate jump to 53 percent.

While a 4 percentage point increase might not seem like much, it is quite an accomplishment and definitely a step in the right direction for this underrepresented group of students.

“What’s particularly gratifying is if you look at the gap between overall graduation rate and the Hispanic graduation rate, it has narrowed,” said Roger Sugarman, director of institutional research. “It began at 11 percent for the first study, and we have found that it has narrowed to 6.5 percentage points.”

Low college graduation rates have often been associated with the Hispanic population, but it seems as if the students at UK are sick of that negative connotation and are working hard to make a change.

UK freshman Chris Cardenas, who is of Mexican descent, has seen these statistics on Hispanic retention rates first-hand, as his mother and father both attended college but did not graduate.

“I think people use the statistics to fuel the stereotype of Hispanics not graduating college,” Cardenas said in the Kernel article. “This could be a reason why there are so few (Hispanics) in college … When people read negative numbers about themselves, it makes them not even want to come to college.

“If more Hispanics my age would finish college, it would help their eventual children become motivated to graduate college.”

Cardenas is absolutely right, and not just in the case of Hispanic students. While it sounds cliche, it only takes  one group to turn things around and really make a difference for the future.

The Hispanic students on UK’s campus should be congratulated for this increase, but they shouldn’t be satisfied. Not only must this group continue to put in hard work, but UK must also continue to provide resources to help retain these students.

Part of the reason the increase has occurred is because UK upgraded its black and white TV and seems to  realize the importance of true diversity.

If this steady rise continues and the necessary attention is paid to ensuring the success of Hispanic students, maybe those negative stereotypes Cardenas spoke of will become a thing of the past.