Wednesday, April 14, 2021

The Issue of Recruitment and Retention

Recruitment and Retention of black students is a sub part of the overall retention issue at colleges and universities.

I saw some unofficial information several months ago, regarding the retention rate on UE students who either received a Zerah Priestly Carter (ZPC) scholarship or a "stipend".  Shortly after that came the yearly request for donations to the Zerah Priestly Carter scholarship fund.  Based on the retention rate data I saw before, I then posed this question to a UE administrator.  "What support systems are in place to assist in the retention of ZPC scholarship recipients at UE?"  I then quoted to the official the percentage rate for retention I had  some information on.  I am also curious as to what is the retention rate for African American students at UE compared to the overall retention rate at UE?  Plus the retention rate based on specific categories, e.g. women, men, etc.  I posed the questions several weeks ago and still have not received a final answer.

The first retention "problem" at UE for an African American student began one year after Zerah Priestly was admitted as the first black student allowed to attend UE.  Pat Alves, the first black male admitted to Evansville College (EC) in the 1935-1936 school year did not return to complete his education at EC.

Our reasons for attending UE vary.  For some it was due to what the college offered academically.  For some like me it was to "practice" in a multi cultural environment that I would see once I graduated. UE has never been identified as the best college for African American students to attend.  We all recall the students in our Freshman classes whom we did not see the next year.  The reasons for their returning varied.  For some it was the "environment" on campus.  But, we all knew about the environment before we started our days at UE.

There may be indicators of success for a black student on who will graduate from UE.  Is it coming from a high school that had a diverse student population?  Going through a college prep curriculum in high school?  Having experience in a day to day multi-cultural environment?

We may think that UE needs to recruit more black students, but think about that statement.  If the support mechanisms needed by black students are not at UE, why recruit black students to live in an environment not designed to fit our needs?

The admissions process needs to be open and honest to the families of black students on the cultural challenges of being at UE.  The university needs to be honest and openly share the retention rate for African American students.   What support systems are needed?  Here are a few ideas. The year to year opportunity to join a black fraternity or sorority regardless of the size of the black student population at UE.  Create a specific set of activities year to year designed for black students, to include road trips off campus.  Mentoring options and tutoring.

UE has made recruitment of black students a priority in the past.  Under former President Graves, in the early 1970s, the university sought to recruit black students from the Evansville area.  The recruitment effort was successful, but the retention rate was abysmal.  The granting of scholarships and provision of financial aid does not prevent students from leaving.  Financial aid opens the door.  Then, you are on your own.

I await "my" university's development of an innovative recruitment and retention plan!