| UST Exceeds National Hispanic Graduation Rate |
A study of national college graduation data by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) reveals that the University of St. Thomas exceeds the national graduation rate among Hispanic students. UST’s Hispanic graduation rate also outpaces all Catholic universities in Texas.
The report, Rising to the Challenge: Raising Hispanic Graduation Rates as a National Priority, comes at a time when the Hispanic population in the United States is rapidly growing, and their academic achievements have important implications for America's future. Rising to the Challenge was underwritten by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Across the country, 51 percent of Hispanic students who start college complete a bachelor's degree in six years, compared to 59 percent of white students. As federally designated Hispanic –Serving Institution, St. Thomas surpasses that national trend, with a 58 percent Hispanic graduation rate. Hispanic students comprise 36.1 percent of the combined undergraduate and graduate student body.
“UST provided me with tremendous opportunities to grow both personally and professionally,” said Thomas Mendez, a 2009 UST graduate. “The genuine care and attention that professors and administrators show students really create an exceptional learning environment. I appreciate UST not only for the small classes and great education I received, but also for the opportunity to grow as a leader and in my faith life as well.
Mendez earned a bachelor’s degree in International Studies and a minor in Latin American and Latino Studies. While at UST, Mendez studied abroad in Mexico and Argentina. He served as president and founding member of the Social Entrepreneurship Program, formerly known as the MicroCredit Program, which enabled Mendez and other UST students to grant microloans to entrepreneurs in Mexico and other countries across the globe. Mendez also served as president and co-founder of the Student Organization of Latinos. Méndez is currently working toward a master’s degree in international political economics in Buenos Aires, Argentina though a Rotary Foundation Ambassadorial Scholarship.
Researchers used data from the U.S. Department of Education to examine graduation rates. The schools are grouped by how selective they are in admitting students − noted in six categories ranging from "noncompetitive" to "most competitive," as defined by the popular Barron's Profiles of American Colleges.
In 2007, Hispanics represented about 15 percent of the American population and about 12 percent of full-time college students. But Hispanics received only 7.5 percent of the bachelor’s degrees awarded that year. Between 2000 and 2008 the number of minority children grew by 4.8 million, and Hispanics accounted for more than 80 percent of the increase.
Education beyond high school is critical for both a strong economy and the financial security of American families. Employees with higher education are more productive and earn more money than those who only graduated from high school.
“Educating all students well and getting them across the finish line is the biggest challenge facing higher education today,” said Hilary Pennington, the director of Education, Postsecondary Success and Special Initiatives at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “These are the students who are going to replace the baby boomers, and who we will rely on to drive our economy over the next several decades.”
In addition to offering academic programs and social networks for Hispanic students, the University of St. Thomas provides resources opportunities to ensure success for Hispanic students and first-generation college students. UST has a first-year experience program titled, “The Freshman Symposium: Educating Leaders of Faith and Character.” This program offers faculty and staff mentorship. The Office of Residence Life also hosts a student group for first-generation students.
The Mendenhall Summer Institute is a five-week program for a select group of 50 incoming freshmen that allows these students to start early on their college education. Students receive support outside the classroom, college credit and the opportunity to earn grants toward college tuition. The Mendenhall Achievement Center is located centrally on the UST campus and provides a professional support team including advising, mentoring, tutoring and counseling.
UST offers the S-STEM Scholars Program, which seeks to increase the number of students graduating in the fields of science, pre-engineering and mathematics and to recruit women and underrepresented groups to the science and math careers. UST also offers and Online Master of Education which is funded through a U.S. Department of Education $2.8 million Title V Grant to fund the Promoting Postbaccalaureate Opportunities for Hispanic Americans (PPOHA) Program. The purpose of the grant is to implement programs to achieve parity among Hispanic graduate students and other underrepresented groups in retention and graduation rates.