The Education Trust names Mason a top institution for black student success

George Mason University has been named one of the nation’s best universities for graduating black students at the same rate as whites, according to a report released Wednesday by The Education Trust.

George Mason was listed among the 18 top-performing institutions with a graduation rate for black students just 0.3 percent behind that of whites. The study looked at 676 traditional public and private nonprofit institutions.

“We take pride in the fact that there is no disparity among our students regardless of race, ethnicity or socioeconomic status,” Mason President Ángel Cabrera said. “We are a world-class research university that defines success by how many people with potential we can help be successful no matter where they come from.”

The Education Trust previously recognized Mason for a six-year graduation rate of its Pell Grant recipients that is four percentage points higher than the graduation rate of its students who do not qualify for the grants.

“It’s the idea that we go out and find talent, no matter what the socioeconomic background, what financial background,” said David Burge, Mason’s vice president for enrollment management. “Then we make sure they are ready for college.”

The study into black graduation rates—“A Look At Black Student Success: Identifying Top- and Bottom-Performing Institutions”—examined graduation data from 2012-14 and used weighted three-year averages to account for year-to-year cohort size differences on the data.

Mason graduated 65.7 percent of its black students in that period, the third-highest rate among the top-performing institutions. The report compares Mason with an  institution with similar enrollment, test scores and Pell Grant recipients.  Mason serves twice the number of black full-time freshmen, who achieve graduation rates that are more than 20 points higher.

Mason officials cited several reasons for the positive outcomes. Key among them is the Early Identification Program, a partnership of 35 years with seven surrounding school districts that provides access to educational resources for middle and high school students who will be first in their families to attend a college or university.

Mason’s Student Transitional Empowerment Program from the Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Multicultural Education is an initiative that enhances recruitment, engagement and retention of first-generation students.

Both of those initiatives are part of University Life, which produced a study titled the “Equity and Graduation Project.” This study cited the availability of institutional programs and co-curricular activities that support diversity and diverse experiences in understanding why Mason has no graduation gap between white students and those from underrepresented minorities.

Burge also noted that students from underrepresented minorities make up more than 50 percent of the university’s population, which can help create a more inclusive atmosphere.

“You can authentically say we are a diverse place,” Burge said. “[Students] look around and they see a healthy community.”

“We’re proud of where we are but we don’t want to rest there,” said Julian R. Williams, Mason’s vice president for Compliance, Diversity and Ethics. “We understand students, regardless of background, are going to experience the campus differently, and we want to continue to provide a really high level of quality service and quality academic advising to students as well.”