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No Gap for African American Students

At UC Riverside, African-American Students Are Staying and Succeeding

African-American students at the University of California, Riverside continue beyond their first year and graduate at higher rates than any other ethnic group, according to the latest retention and six-year graduation figures.

(February 22, 2010)

A student celebrates success at UC Riverside's commencementEnlarge

A student celebrates success at UC Riverside's commencement

RIVERSIDE, Calif. ( -- African-American students at the University of California, Riverside continue beyond their first year and graduate at higher rates than any other ethnic group, according to the latest retention and six-year graduation figures.

African-Americans in the fall 2002 freshman class had a 73.9 percent graduation rate by 2008, while the overall campus graduation rate was 64.3 percent. Their first-year retention rate was 92.8 percent, while the campus persistence rate was 84.9 percent.

Nationwide, about 54 percent of full-time students at four-year public universities graduate in six years, but the rate for African-Americans is 38 percent, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

“I’m delighted to see concrete evidence of what we have known anecdotally – that our African-American students are doing as well, or in many instances, better, than UCR students overall,” said UCR Chancellor Timothy P. White. “However, our goal is to further increase both retention and graduation rates for African-American students as well as for all student groups.”

Campus officials are not entirely sure why African-Americans do so well at UCR, but they believe a critical factor is that African-Americans feel comfortable on the campus, which is the most diverse in the UC system and was ranked fifth most diverse nationally by U.S. News and World Report.

“Critical mass matters,” said White, “and UCR’s undergraduate student body reflects the face of California.” African-Americans are 7 percent of UCR’s student body, not the 1 percent they are on some college campuses.

A 2008 system-wide survey of undergraduate UC students found that a higher percentage of African-Americans on the UCR campus reported that “students of my race/ethnicity are respected on this campus” than their counterparts at any other UC campus

At UCR a total of 71 percent of African-American men responding said this was true as did 83 percent of African-American women. In the overall UC system only 58 percent of male African-Americans and 63 percent of female African-Americans agreed.

In the same survey 91 percent of all UCR undergraduates responding compared to 83 percent of UC system undergraduates agreed that “diversity is important on this campus.”

“We have a campus culture committed to the success of all students, and it shows,” said David Fairris, vice provost for undergraduate education. “For example, our Fast Start summer program for disadvantaged students interested in medical or science careers greatly increases success in the gateway science courses, and our freshmen transition programs have been found to significantly increase first-year retention, especially for women and under-represented minorities.”

African-American students in engineering and the hard sciences have lower retention and graduation rates than those in the social sciences and arts, but this is true for all ethnic groups.

At a recent Board of Regents meeting, White said that eliminating all gaps in graduation rates is a “defining feature of UCR’s commitment to excellence through diversity” and he reported data showing that for the past several years UCR is outperforming peer institutions nationally in this regard.


The University of California, Riverside ( is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

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