September 7, 2011

U of L seeks to increase black degree-earners

By Johnathan Masters–

On Aug. 24, The Saturday Academy conducted a roundtable powwow, aimed at developing an action plan to increase the number of black college graduates. The University of Louisville plans to graduate 55,000 new degree-earners by 2020. The university aims to make 15,000 of those black – a project they have deemed ‘15k/55k.’

Dr. Blaine Hudson, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, lectured at The Saturday Academy’s meeting on the 15k/55k initiative to an audience of about 70.

“During the Civil War, 750,000 slaves set themselves free, and the biggest demand they had were teachers,” said Hudson, explaining the historic precedent for the project. “In 1740, in South Carolina, it was illegal for black folks to read and write, including ‘free’ Africans.”

Hudson poured over data regarding Louisville’s historic educational indicators for black and white students.

According to the data, black high school students have lower math and science scores, which constitutes a “racial achievement” gap, Hudson said.

Almost 28 percent of white Louisvillians have a four-year college degree, compared to black students in Louisville, 14.1 percent of who earn four-year degrees. This constitutes a “racial attainment” gap, Hudson said.

According to Hudson, the achievement gap feeds into the attainment gap, and both of them contribute to the racial employment gap. The employment gap will be filled when the achievement and attainment gaps are filled, he said.

At The Saturday Academy meeting, Aletha Fields, an English teacher at Iroquois High School, said the low test scores were directly related to bad behavior.

“The entire student disciplinary plan needs to go,” Fields said. “Disproportionately, African-American males are suspended at higher rates at Iroquois High School.” The Saturday Academy separated into smaller groups, where the public generated ideas about what has working and what was not in the move to graduate more black students from U of L.

One idea discussed included creating an “Office of Retention,” so a specific office would be held accountable for retaining black students once they get their foot in the door, including freshmen, who have the highest drop-out rate.

“Because of raising tuitions and expensive textbooks,” announced Felicia Lee, a Job Corps counselor, “college should be free.”

Starting Oct. 1, on every Saturday, from 11a.m. to 3 p.m., U of L’s College of Arts and Sciences will offer The Saturday Academy, an information session for high school students and the general public on black history, culture and issues at the DuValle Education Center. Dr. Hudson will lecture in the morning, and then guest speakers will lecture for the next two hours. The next session for the 15k/55k Initiatives will be on Saturday, Sept.

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Illustration: Baylee Pullium/The Louisville Cardinal

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