When the promise of young multiracial and multicultural college educated students is fulfilled, our nation will continue to grow and prosper. By 2020, a new more diverse generation will make up 40% of the US population. The future of Dominican University is intimately tied to these demographics and the success of students from all backgrounds.
Framework in Context
The Dominican University student body is currently 46% students of color, up from 33% a decade ago. The average freshman retention rate is 79%, with a six-year baccalaureate graduation rate of 59%. Student engagement data (NSSE) indicates that both freshmen and seniors report a greater focus on including diverse perspectives in the Dominican curriculum than at peer institutions.
It would be a mistake to assume that all students are equally successful and engaged at Dominican, however. For example, in a society characterized by wealth inequality, a deeper analysis of our data indicates that our African American students have more academic, financial and personal struggles and, graduate at a much lower rate 33% than other students. Specifically, a black student, on average, has a family income of $15,000 less than other students, with 46% of Dominican's African American families (versus 28% overall) having no capacity to help their daughters or sons with college expenses. Even with a college degree, many students face low earnings and high debt.
That said, the total need-based financial support for a black student at Dominican exceeds support for other students by approximately $3000 ($22,000 vs $19,000). For fall 2016, the university further increased the financial aid available to students, and specifically, to highly qualified low-income African American students, resulting in a significant increase in black freshmen. Since 2013, new initiatives like The Village and more recently, Guided Pathways, and the creation of an Emergency Aid Fund, are in place to increase student retention. And, the percentage of faculty and staff of color also increased to 22% in 2016. But, we still need to do more.
Colleges and universities have appointed diversity professionals throughout their organizations. Yet to date, Dominican University is one of only 81 of 680 Masters II universities in the country to appoint a Chief Diversity Officer to a cabinet level position. With this focused leadership, the active participation of faculty/staff diversity initiatives and committees, student leadership, and the oversight of the President's Advisory Committee on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, the university is ready to implement an outcomes-oriented diversity plan connected to the university's strategic framework.