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Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Percentage of minority students graduating from UF stagnant over past three years

For about every 11 white students who cross the stage at UF's commencement ceremonies, there is one black student receiving a diploma.

And that hasn't changed much during the past few years, just as it hasn't for other minorities on campus.

The number of minority students graduating at UF has remained stagnant during the past three academic years, varying by one percentage point at most since 2004, according to UF's Office of Institutional Planning and Research.

During the 2006-2007 academic year, 69 percent of degrees were awarded to whites, 11 percent to Hispanics, 6 percent to blacks and 6 percent to Asians, according to the research office.

The 2007 U.S. Census Bureau's national degree obtainment percentages mirror UF's figures, showing a similar gap between minority and white students between the ages 18 of 24.

The degree attainment gap is, in part, a result of factors that are present in the home, neighborhood and at school, said Tamara Cohen, director of multicultural and diversity affairs at UF.

Two key factors are quality of education available and levels of income, she explained.

The level of success attained by parents is one of the factors that influence a student's decision to seek higher education.

"There is a relationship between the level of income of parents and their children's prospects for attaining a certain level of financial success," Cohen said.

She explained that if parents' levels of income stem from a job requiring a degree, children are more likely to go to college.

Teachers also play a role in students' academic decisions by influencing their self-confidence.

Cohen said that during the earliest stages of schooling, students are categorized by teachers based on biases about which children are smarter and likelier to succeed.

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"It's subtle racism based on underlying assumptions," Cohen said.

Another factor that affects some minority students' opportunity to pursue a higher education is money, since some parents cannot afford to fund their children's educations.

Edil Torres, a UF professor of counselor education with a background in multicultural counseling, said the most common concern of minority students ishow they will finance their college tuitions.

Hillary Ho, an art history major, said she remembers her parents working long hours to raise enough money to fund her college education after the family emigrated from Vietnam to the United States 13 years ago.

Ho, now in her first year of college, looks forward to the day she will cross the stage in cap and gown and receive her diploma, while her parents watch from the audience.

She said a degree is essential to getting a well-paying job, but will also bring her a level of recognition and respect.

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