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FIU bucks the trend when it comes to national equity gaps in graduation rates, STEM degrees

FIU bucks the trend when it comes to national equity gaps in graduation rates, STEM degrees

May 11, 2020 at 11:45pm

While Hispanic college student enrollment has increased dramatically in the last 25 years, their graduation from four-year institutions lags 12 percentage points behind their white counterparts, according to a recent report by Excelencia in Education.

But FIU – where more than 66% of the student population is Hispanic – bucks the trend. The graduation rate for FIU’s Hispanic students was 2 percentage points higher than the overall graduation rate from 2015 to 2018. FIU is the number one institution awarding bachelor’s degrees to Hispanic students in the U.S.

Hispanic students at FIU have earned a higher percentage of bachelor’s degrees (3.4%) in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) areas than non-Hispanic students. FIU remains the largest producer of Hispanic STEM undergraduate and graduate degrees in the U.S.

Not only do FIU’s Hispanic students graduate at a higher rate, but they also transcend generational challenges. FIU was ranked No. 13 for social mobility among public universities by U.S. News & World Report. At FIU, under-served students who qualify for Pell Grants make up nearly half of the student body and graduate at a higher rate than their non-Pell Grant recipient peers.

“Our university has made great strides to provide not just access, but excellence, to our student body. The intentional, learner-centered education we provide drives student success, lifts up the community of South Florida, and offers meaningful contributions to the global marketplace.” said FIU President Mark B. Rosenberg.

The secret to FIU’s success includes the federal TRIO program, success coaches, dual enrollment, the STEM Transformation Institute, professional advisors, the Mastery Math Lab, and the largest learning assistant program in the nation, as well as partnerships between Miami Dade College and FIU.

Destiny Taylor, a senior psychology major who works as a program assistant and tutor for FIU’s Student Support Services (SSS), said that the programs that FIU offers helped her find her path, succeed in her classes, and meet students who could relate to her cultural and socioeconomic background.

“You are pursuing a collective dream that is bigger than just you – it’s for your parents, grandparents, and siblings,” said Taylor, whose family is from Costa Rica. Her mother graduated with a bachelor’s in elementary education in 2015, when Taylor was a junior in high school. Growing up, she witnessed the challenges of her older siblings navigating college admissions and education as first-generation students at FIU.

Taylor was accepted into the SSS program her first semester at FIU, and now works there as a student employee. SSS offers academic and career advising, financial aid information, tutoring and study groups, seminars, and opportunities to attend conferences. It is supported by the federal TRIO program, which funds student services for underserved populations.

“Having the guidance and reassurance of the coaches at FIU’s Student Support Services really gave me a safe space to be challenged, reach for more, and connect with my peers who are going through similar things as me. Without my coaches and friends at SSS, I don’t think I would have achieved so much,” Taylor said.

FIU was awarded the Seal of Excelencia in 2019 for its success in educating Hispanic students. It is the only institution in Florida with this award, and one of only 14 nationally.