At Boston College where we took retention for Black and Latino students from 17% to 95%, we owe much of our success from leadership buy-in. This led to total institutional commitment.
What drove Boston College’s concerns were the demographic realities—by 2040, white Americans will for the first time comprise less than 50% of the school-age population. Latinos will account for 28%, African Americans 14%, Asian Americans 8%, and Native Americans 1%. The University realized that if our nation is to remain strong not only economically but morally as well, it needed to make certain that students of color, especially those who are under-prepared academically, are afforded every opportunity to obtain a higher education.
The University’s commitment to this overarching goal began at the top. The University’s President supported by the Board of Trustees established a Commission on Minority Education which focused on developing strategies to assist Black and Latino students in their academic and social adjustment to the University.
Emboldened by the strength of this mandate, we embarked on an aggressive, multi-faceted retention effort that boiled down to three broad directives: Enable Access, Create Opportunity, Provide Support. But none of these directives could be implemented without the university’s solid, unwavering commitment at every level—a commitment that needed to be grounded in honest introspection in the form of a thorough assessment of institutional climate and student satisfaction and needs.