The University of Central Florida is among the best public universities in the nation when it comes to reducing the graduation rate gap between black and white students.

The Education Trust released the Rising Tide II report which asks: “Do Black Students Benefit as Grad Rates Increase?” This is the second of two research papers looking at the graduation rates of traditionally underserved minority students.

The report found “that completion rates for Black students increased at almost 70 percent of the 232 public, four-year institutions that improved overall graduation rates from 2003-2013. But at more than half of those institutions (53 percent), the gains among black students were not as large as those among white students, widening gaps between groups.”

UCF is the only Florida university to make the list of “top schools.” During the past decade at the university, the gap between graduation rates of black and white students was reduced by 1.9 percent.

“UCF is committed to lifting lives and livelihoods,” said UCF Provost and Executive Vice President Dale Whittaker. “Raising our graduation rate is important in meeting our promise for a quality education. That means working hard to ensure our students have the resources they need to graduate and succeed.”

UCF has a host of programs aimed at improving graduation rates overall and to help student populations that may have specific challenges such as first-generation students. The Foundations of Excellence and the DirectConnect programs are among the ways the university focuses resources to help students who transfer to UCF. Transfer students have helped increase diversity at UCF.  The university is also using predictive analytics to help all struggling students. Using big data, the university can identify those who are at risk of not graduating and can direct academic advisors to reach out to them. The advisors can recommend resources to address the students’ individual challenges whether they be academic or financial in nature.

A multitude of campus organizations also offer support to black and other diverse student populations. Some of them are:

  • Seizing Opportunities through Achievement and Retention Program (SOAR)This six-week summer bridge program serves students from underserved and underrepresented populations as they make the transition from high school to college.
  • Pegasus Success Program – This program assists students with bridging the gap between the life they had in high school and the life that stands before them as a UCF college student.
  • First Generation Program– This program assists first-generation students by providing guidance and resources to promote their self-esteem, confidence and academic achievement.
  • Brother to Brother Program (B2B) – B2B is intended to increase the retention and graduation rates of multicultural and first-generation men on campus. The program includes workshops and social events.
  • Multicultural Academic Support Services Mentoring Program – Peer mentors provide support services, financial literacy education, coaching, leadership and direction to students.
  • Knight Alliance Network – The Knight Alliance Network helps students from foster care make a healthy transition to become successful students at UCF.
  • “Institutional leaders can’t be satisfied with overall gains — or even just with any increase for black students,” said José Luis Santos, Ph.D., vice president of higher education policy and practice at Ed Trust. “Leaders must strive for accelerated gains among black students so they can catch up to their peers. Thankfully, there are institutions across the country that are showing the way forward.”