Communities

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USC serves as model for graduating Latino students

USC Commencement

By Eddie North-Hager

January 16, 2014

USC, one of the largest and most selective private research universities in the country, also is one of the most successful at graduating Latino students, according to an analysis by the Education Trust.

USC, which has long pursued and valued a diverse student population, “increased graduation rates for Latino students 19 points to nearly the same rate as its white students,” according to “Learning From High Performing and Fast Gaining Institutions,” a report released today to coincide with President Barack Obama’s higher education summit on accessibility for disadvantaged students.

The report, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, held up eight universities as models that have markedly improved graduation rates over a sustained period of time — especially among students of color and for low-income students.

Of the eight, USC is the only private university and the only member of the Association of American Universities, the group representing the nation’s top research schools.

At USC, low-income and underrepresented minority students graduate at rates comparable to the average of about 90 percent for the overall undergraduate population. The six-year graduation rate for Hispanic students exceeds 91 percent.

“We want all our students to graduate with academic programs that prepare them to meet their personal aspirations,” said Gene Bickers, vice provost for undergraduate programs. “Our success with Hispanic students can be attributed to a holistic approach that brings together faculty, academic advisers and student life professionals to promote engagement and success.”

USC recruits an economically and socially diverse student, staff and faculty body, and enrolls more underrepresented minority students (African-American, Latino and Native American) than most other private research universities in the country, about 19 percent of its total undergraduate population.

In addition, 13 percent of matriculating students are the first in their families to attend university.

USC also enrolls more than 4,200 low-income undergraduate students (as defined by Pell Grant eligibility), more than most private research universities.

The Neighborhood Academic Initiative, the university’s flagship community program, sends 100 percent of its students to college, with nearly half getting full-tuition scholarships to USC. The university has more than 3,000 local children in college access programs and more than 500 children in pre-school programs.

USC offers admission without regard to ability to pay, and the university meets 100 percent of the demonstrated need of on-time financial aid applicants. More than two-third of USC’s undergraduate students receive some form of financial assistance.

In addition to the report from Education Trust, USC efforts have been recognized on a national level by the Carnegie Foundation, the president of the American Council on Education, the World Health Organization and the “Saviors of Our Cities” survey of best university civic partnerships.