The report, entitled “Rising Tide II: Do Black Students Benefit as Grad Rates Increase?,” features Texas Tech’s Mentor Tech program.
A national research report recently released by The Education Trust found that graduation rates for African-American students at public, four-year colleges and universities did not increase the same rate as overall rates for higher education institutions over the past decade (2003-13).
Programs across the nation have been put in place to change these rates for African-American students. One of those programs is Texas Tech University's Mentor Tech, formally known as the Lauro Cavazos and Ophelia Powell-Malone Mentoring Program.
Seventy percent of institutions examined showed while there was an improvement of graduation rates for African-American students, the increase hasn't been large or fast enough to close gaps between African-American and Caucasian students. The Education Trust reported in many cases the gaps between the two rates have widened.
In the report, The Education Trust featured 52 institutions across the nation working to close the completion gaps between African-American and Caucasian students in hopes other colleges and universities will learn ways to increase their graduation rates of African-American students. The first university program on the list: Texas Tech's Mentor Tech.
“Texas Tech is honored to once more be recognized by The Education Trust as a top-performing university in achieving educational excellence and success for its African-American students,” said Juan Muñoz, senior vice president for the Division of Institutional Diversity, Equity and Community Engagement and vice provost for Undergraduate Education and Student Affairs. “We are particularly proud of our Mentor Tech program, which is being recognized as a national best practice to ensure student success. Texas Tech is committed to inclusive excellence, and the recognition by The Education Trust helps to further the awareness of our efforts and underscores our dedication to continue them.”
Mentor Tech was first introduced in 2002 after university leaders noticed how many African-American and Latino students were leaving without a degree.
The program – named after former Texas Tech President Lauro Cavazos, the first Texas Tech undergraduate to become president at Texas Tech, and Ophelia Powell-Malone, Texas Tech's first African-American graduate – began increasing graduation rates through faculty and staff mentoring and peer group networking opportunities to foster a campus climate conducive to students' academic, social and cultural needs and interests.
In the report, Mentor Tech director Cory Powell said the part that makes students successful is knowing there always is someone in their corner supporting them.
“Ultimately, the thing that makes it successful is you're giving them someone who says, ‘I'm here for you. Regardless of whatever it is, you can come and talk to me,'” Powell said. “When students are having those difficulties or they're second-guessing themselves, there's someone who can reassure them it's possible.”
Having served more than 3,200 students from underrepresented groups, Mentor Tech partners “protégés” with mentors to help students stay accountable in their studies, have a support system and, ultimately, succeed all the way to graduation day.
Housed under the Division of Institutional Diversity, Mentor Tech offers workshops for students that focus on academics and career and personal development, facilitates connections with local churches and community organizations, and also hosts an annual banquet each year to celebrate graduating protégés and raise money for Mentor Tech scholarships.
“We are proud Texas Tech has been recognized as an example to our peer institutions for dramatically improving graduation and retention rates for our African-American students over the last 10 years,” said Texas Tech Provost Lawrence Schovanec. “The impact of Mentor Tech is more significant for the relationships it promotes between our students and faculty and the student success and difference in the lives made possible through these relationships.”
Since the program's beginning, Texas Tech's graduation rates among African-American students has increased 19 percent in the last decade to 56 percent. For Latinos, the graduation rate is 53 percent, an increase of 13 percentage points higher than a decade ago. As of today more than 1,000 protégés in the program have graduated from Texas Tech and the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center.
“We want to make it as hard as possible for students to fail,” said Powell in the Rising Tide II report.
Ohio State University was the other four-year, public university featured in the report with its Young Scholars Program that focuses on first-generation, low-income middle-schoolers in nine cities across the state that take college-prep curriculum to help them get into Ohio State or other universities.
“It's a tremendous honor to have the work we do through Mentor Tech recognized by The Education Trust,” Powell said. “Our efforts to provide students with support in their academic, social and cultural adjustments are only possible because of the commitment of the university's administration to diversity and the mentors who selflessly give their time to positively impact the lives of our students.”
The Education Trust is a national, non-profit advocacy organization that promotes high academic achievement for all students at all levels, particularly for students of color and low-income students. To see the full report, visit The Education Trust's website.