As St. Cloud State approaches the 2012-2013 school year, projections are that the university will continue its trend of welcoming growing numbers of students of color, including Black or African American students. In the last decade, enrollment of Black or African American students has increased at St. Cloud State from 173 total students in 2000 to 842 in the fall of 2011. This has been a gradual, purposeful growth as SCSU has sought to enhance the diversity of its student body to reflect the population of Minnesota.
In a recent Spokesman-Recorder, a commentator implied that while the university attracts growing numbers of Black students, only a small percentage of those enrolled will successfully reach graduation. That statement is false, as we have informed you previously.
In fact, we provided extensive information to show that the “facts” presented by the writer are most often knowingly and intentionally incorrect. I appreciate that you do not have the staff to do fact checking in pieces submitted to you. However, in this case you have easy access to our staff, and the writer has an established pattern of misrepresentation.
When analyzing graduation rates for any segment of the student population, it’s important to calculate the rate using the correct comparisons. In 2005, 49 new Black students entered St. Cloud State, and 16 of those students had completed their degrees at St. Cloud State six years later, the national standard for degree completion comparisons.
The Spokesman-Recorder has repeatedly published outcome information that violates the only valid approach to talking about student success, i.e., of the cohort that starts, how many graduate six years later. The calculation of graduation rates of Black students at the university as reported in the Spokesman-Recorder has been based on a comparison, for example, not with the group of 49 new Black students who entered in the fall of 2005, but by the total number of Black students enrolled at St. Cloud State in that fall, i.e., 303.
The correct approach yields a graduation rate of 33 percent. The false approach yields a rate of five percent.
Overall, St. Cloud State has had a 35 percent six-year graduation rate for Black students over the last six years for which data are available, beginning with rates for the class enrolled in 2000. According to the most recent statistics available for the university’s six-year graduation rates, the overall graduation rate is 48 percent for all students during this period of time.
While a gap remains between graduation rates of the majority population and that of Black or African American students, the university is committed to continuing to close this gap. We would be happy to share our work on this commitment at your request.
Earl H. Potter III
President, St. Cloud State University
Editor’s note: This letter responds to reader commentary published on the MSR’s editorial page, not to information in any published news stories.