Study Finds Career Prep Key for First-Generation Student Graduation Rates
A new study co-authored by St. Francis College Sociology Professor Emily Horowitz shows that black and Latino students who attend private Catholic colleges in the New York City area are much more satisfied with their college experience than those who attend comparable CUNY schools.
The study, “Career Pathways: A Strategy to Increase Black and Latino Four-Year Graduation Rates,” suggests that the Catholic colleges have greater success with minority students because they have more career-oriented majors, smaller classes, better academic support, more intense advisement, and a better sense of a college “community.” Additionally, the study found that faculty members are recognized and rewarded for teaching and supporting students, whereas faculty promotions at the CUNY schools are based on research and publication.
The study, directed by Dr. Robert Cherry, a Professor of Economics at CUNY’s Brooklyn College, and Dr. Horowitz, surveyed students in an effort to understand why CUNY had less success in graduating minority students than private and Catholic colleges.
Tracing graduation rates, the authors found that the private and Catholic college graduated more black men and women than the least competitive CUNY schools. In turn, those CUNY colleges (Lehman, York, Medgar Evers, and City Tech) graduated significantly more black men and women than the three most competitive CUNY colleges (Baruch, Queens, and Hunter), despite having half as many graduates. The authors said they were disturbed by another trend they identified; even as the number of graduates at the three competitive CUNYs went up, there was actually a slight decrease in the number of black graduates while the number of Latino graduates remained fairly constant.
Cherry and Horowitz believe that private-sector colleges emphasize retention for all students, and encourage career pathways that can lead to entry-level professional employment. Minority students, who are more often the first generation in their family to attend college, place financial security as a top priority. For them, the study finds, the ability to prepare for a career is often more realistic than post-graduate study.
The report is based on surveys that found that students at Catholic colleges were more likely to say that career services “exceeded expectations” when compared to students at comparable CUNY schools. The survey found students also had more favorable ratings at private and Catholic colleges for academic programs, faculty mentoring and academic assistance.
The authors cite a lack of career pathways at the three "most competitive" CUNY colleges – Baruch College, Queens College, and Hunter College – as a possible explanation for the limited and declining number of black and Latino graduates there.
The surveys indicate that the "least competitive" CUNY schools, by contrast, have begun to do a better job, and are graduating an increasing number of black and Latino students, by expanding their career pathways programs.
Cherry and Horowitz argue that the Catholic colleges provide a model for CUNY, because they have a long tradition of helping underserved student populations with programs and policies that encourage minority retention and graduation. They add that Catholic colleges recognize the importance of helping the weaker students succeed by focusing on career development and majors that can lead directly to employment.
The authors say that CUNY schools emphasize providing resources to the strongest and best minority students, so that they go on to Ph.D. programs, law schools, medical schools, and obtain prestigious fellowships.
The private colleges surveyed include: Bloomfield College, Metropolitan College, Nyack College, the College of New Rochelle, St. Francis College, St. Joseph’s College, Mercy College, and Monroe College.
The CUNY colleges include: Lehman College, York College, Medgar Evers College, City Tech, Baruch College, Queens College, and Hunter College.
St. Francis College, founded in 1859 by the Franciscan Brothers of Brooklyn, is located in Brooklyn Heights, N.Y. Since its founding, the College has pursued its Franciscan mission to provide an affordable, high-quality education to students from New York City’s five boroughs and beyond.
St. Francis College, 180 Remsen Street, Brooklyn Heights, NY 11201