West Virginia University has made the most progress of any of the nation’s flagship universities in providing access for low-income and underrepresented minority students, a report issued this week from The Education Trust says.

WVU was one of four institutions with the “highest marks for overall performance on measures of equity and for their progress between 2004-2005 and 2007-2008.” The others were the University of Florida, the University of Maine and the University of Utah.

While WVU fared well in the study, the report, entitled “Opportunity Adrift,” was critical of the broader record of flagship institutions.

The report was issued the same day Gov. Joe Manchin called on West Virginia’s colleges and universities to do more to make higher education accessible.

“Our colleges and universities are more prepared than ever to take us to the next level, but our children have to get to college first,” Manchin said in his State of the State message on Jan. 13. “Our greatest challenge is to make sure those who start college will finish.”

WVU President James P. Clements praised Manchin for his commitment to education and for making it a priority.

“It’s clear he cares deeply about education,” Clements said. “And he understands the key to success in West Virginia is a greater level of education and that access is a priority.

“We’ll do everything we can to help the governor fulfill his vision.”

The Education Trust looked at minority student and low-income student access, and minority student success in the fall of 2007. It also measured progress in these areas from 2004 to 2007.

The full report is available at http://www.edtrust.org/sites/edtrust.org/files/publications/files/Opportunity%20Adrift().pdf.

“We have been working very hard on retention and graduation rates,” said Brenda Thompson, associate vice president, enrollment management.

“And the picture should only improve,” Thompson said. “Since 2008 the University has added a multicultural recruiter, increased financial aid and launched programs to help keep students in school.”

The percentage of minority students continues to rise with each freshman class, she said.

“Programs such as STARS (Students Achieving and Reaching Success) at the Center for Black Culture and Research, HSTA (Health, Science and Technology Academy), HCOP (Health Careers Opportunity Program) and others have really made an impact as we work to increase the number of students from diverse backgrounds on campus,” she said.

The Education Trust promotes high academic achievement for all students at all levels — pre-kindergarten through college. Its goal is to close the gaps in opportunity and achievement that consign many young people—especially those from low-income families or who are black, Latino, or American Indian—to lives on the margins of the American mainstream.



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