Graduation Rates at UC Berkeley Hit All-Time High, Underrepresented Minorities Post Record Gains

By Janet Gilmore, Public Affairs

BERKELEY--The graduation rate at the University of California, Berkeley, has hit an all-time high with more than 82 percent of students now graduating - a stunning figure that clearly outpaces that of most other top public research institutions.

Not only is UC Berkeley's overall graduation rate the highest it's ever been, but figures released by the campus today (March 11) show that graduation rates for African American, Chicano and Latino students also are hitting all-time highs.

"These graduation rates are exceptional," said Chancellor Robert M. Berdahl. "They are a testament to the hard work and dedication of our students and the commitment of our faculty and staff. We don't simply try to attract top students to Berkeley, we provide them with services and guidance that helps ensure they succeed here."

Among students in the entering freshman class of 1992 at UC Berkeley, 82.8 percent of these students graduated within six years, the standard academic benchmark for graduation rates. This compares to 80.5 percent for 1991's entering class; 80.2 for 1990's; and 74.9 for 1983's.

By comparison, figures from the American Association of Universities (AAU) show a collective six-year graduation rate of 65.2 percent for students who were freshmen at an AAU institution in 1990, the most recent year for which AAU figures are available. The AAU is an organization that represents the top public research institutions in the country.

Officials at UC Berkeley especially are impressed with the gains by African American students.

Their graduation rate shot up from 60.9 percent for the freshman class of 1991 to 71.1 percent for the entering class of 1992. The rate for 1983's incoming class was 50.4 percent.

In addition, African American students from the UC Berkeley's freshman class of 1992 significantly have narrowed the gap that exists when comparing African American students' graduation rates to those of white students. Among the 1991 freshman class at UC Berkeley, 81.6 percent of white students graduated within six years, compared to 60.9 of African Americans. By 1992, however, the graduation rate for African Americans soared to 71.1 percent while the rate for whites inched up to 82.9 percent. Thus, African American students had narrowed the gap from 20.7 to 11.8 percentage points.

Latino students in the entering freshman class of 1992 also made records gains as their graduation rate hit 78.4 percent, up from 59.1 percent for 1983's entering freshmen.

Chicano students from 1992's class set a record graduation rate of 67.6 percent, up from 51.7 percent for the entering class of 1983.

"This is incredibly impressive," said Genaro Padilla, UC Berkeley's vice chancellor of undergraduate affairs. "But it is even more inspiring when one looks at the information behind the numbers. Many of the African American, Chicano and Latino students who made these record gains did not come from a background of privilege."

Among Chicano students in UC Berkeley's 1992 freshman class, 45 percent reported combined parental income under $30,000, and 70.3 percent reported that neither parent had a degree from a four-year college.

Regarding Latino students, 25.7 percent reported parental income under $30,000 a year, and 33.9 percent stated that neither parent had a college degree. Among African-American students, 28.4 percent reported a parental income under $30,000, and 34.9 percent stated that neither parent had a college degree.

By comparison, only nine percent of white students from 1992's freshman class reported that their parents earned less than $30,000 a year, and only 10.2 percent of them reported that neither parent had a college degree.

UC Berkeley offers a wealth of programs and services for students who do not arrive on campus with the educational advantages of a middle-class life. These programs are offered to any students who request additional academic support.

Such support includes an introduction to UC Berkeley that includes meetings with alumni, tips on such skills as library research, as well as academic and career counseling from peers, faculty and staff.

Inside the campus's residence halls, students can take part in tutoring, informal discussions with faculty, academic and career advising and computer technology instruction. Students also can attend receptions and lectures that address societal issues of particular concern to them.

In addition, students can obtain tutoring, academic counseling and personal advice from programs at the Student Learning Center, Student Life Advising Services and the Academic Achievement Division. These programs provide students with help in course selection strategies and financial aid as well as direction on getting the most out of UC Berkeley.

UC Berkeley officials have been building on these programs and services in recent years and, campus administrators believe, these historic gains in the graduation rate show that students are making the most of these programs.

While Asian students in the freshman class of 1992 did not post record increases in their graduation rates, they continued a six-year trend of producing the highest graduation rate of all UC Berkeley students. In 1992, their graduation rate hit 89.8 percent, compared to 77.4 percent in 1983.

The graduation rate for white students has remained around 80 percent in recent years. Among the freshman class of 1992, 82.9 percent have graduated. The graduation rate for 1983's entering class was 78.4

The graduation rates for individual groups of students - and the overall 82.8 percent graduation rate for all of UC Berkeley's students - take on even more significance when placed in historical perspective.

At the turn of the century, UC Berkeley's six-year graduation rate hovered around 50 percent. This trend continued through the 1950s. The rate began to increase gradually in the 1960s, rising to 61 percent by 1974 and to about 75 percent in the mid-1980s.

In general, the rate has increased upward since then, and the freshman class of 1997 is already off to a good start.

Figures for the freshman class of 1997 show that a record number of these students remained enrolled here after a year of classes. The one-year retention rate for these freshmen reached 94.7 percent, surpassing previous highs of 93.8 percent for 1996's freshman class and 93.7 percent for 1994's.


NOTE: African American, Chicano and Latino students from UC Berkeley are graduating at rates that greatly exceed AAU's graduation rates for those categories of students. Only 48.3 percent of African Americans and 55.5 percent of Hispanics graduated from AAU campuses in 1990.

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