Editors Note Adds details about the program. Adds comments.
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) _ Drake University in central Iowa has launched an initiative to recruit African-American students and other minority groups as part of an effort to increase the school’s retention rate.
Two faculty members started the Crews Scholar Program in an attempt to change course, The Des Moines Register (http://dmreg.co/110kkOw ) reported. Some faculty and students have expressed concern that the school isn’t retaining these students.
The program will focus on domestic students who are African-American, Hispanic and Native American. It will start in the fall with 20 students in their first year being recruited into the program, which is modeled after a nationwide initiative. Drake will then provide support programming, including mentor sessions with upperclassmen. Additional students will later be invited to join.
Drake student Gabriell Butler, an English and writing major from Kansas City, Mo., said she’s thought about leaving the university each year.
“I felt like I didn’t have a lot of support when I needed it,” the senior said.
The newspaper reported that from 2010 to 2012, Drake’s retention rate for African-American students was 67 percent, compared to 87 percent for white students.
“We’re saying, look, Drake has a problem and we need to address it,” said Melisa Klimaszewski, an English professor behind the program. “What we have come to understand is that there is something about the community here that is contributing to these students leaving Drake.”
Klimaszewski said there’s a misconception at the school about whether minority students are ready to succeed in college. But she said minority students grapple with unique challenges in a predominantly white campus.
“All of these stereotypes are things that students face directly and indirectly,” Klimaszewski said. “A lot of research has shown that this internal battle with these stereotypes affects their academic performance.”
Officials said the program will have a budget of more than $200,000 by the 2014-15 school year. It will later seek to cover room and board costs for participants.
“From my perspective, we are failing to keep the promise of an exceptional learning environment for these students,” said university President David Maxwell. “ … The fact that we are not retaining a vitally important group of students should be of great concern to all of us.”
Information from: The Des Moines Register, http://www.desmoinesregister.com