Wayne State University is failing its African-American students, graduating fewer than one in 10 while success for their white counterparts is four times higher, according to a report issued this month.
The graduation gap between white and black students at WSU is the worst in the nation among public universities, according to a report by the Washington, D.C.-based Education Trust.
With a new school year beginning next week, WSU officials say they are working to retain and graduate more students, tailoring their efforts to Detroit students who tend to be less prepared with more financial needs. But some observers say there are numerous issues that hinder student success, such as graduation requirements that are onerous, poor leadership and too much focus on research and not enough on students.
“It’s inexcusable,” said Frank Koscielski, a WSU academic adviser and recruiter. “Wayne State could be and should be the finest urban commuter university in the country. Unfortunately, it has had poor top administrators who wanted to make the university something that it isn’t.”
Howard Shapiro, associate vice president for student services and undergraduate affairs, said WSU has begun initiatives in recent years to graduate more students that are not based on race but more on students who perform lower academically.
“But that doesn’t show up until you start to see graduation rates change,” Shapiro said.
“We haven’t seen that happen yet but there is a lot of evidence that the things we are doing are actually turning that around.”
The report, which evaluated the majority of the nation’s colleges, accompanied another report that examined the graduation gap between Hispanic and white students. Both showed that the graduation disparity between minority and white students to be a national but not inevitable problem, with WSU and Michigan State University appearing in both reports among the nation’s worst for graduation gaps between students of color and whites.
Other Michigan public universities were given a failing grade for their white-black graduation gaps, including Ferris State University (24.3 percent) and Saginaw Valley State University (24.3). Three private Michigan schools also were cited: Lawrence Technological University (39.4), University of Detroit Mercy (26.9) and Davenport University (19.7).
But WSU stood out as having the widest graduation gap — 34 percent — between white and black students attending public universities.