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USF Searches For Ways To Boost Black Enrollment After Years Of Decline

student walking on campus, looking at her phone
Tim Fanning
WUSF Public Media
A student walks on the USF St. Petersburg campus.

A $60,000 grant will enable the university to hire an external consultant who can research the problem and suggest solutions.

When Black students enroll at the University of South Florida, research shows they graduate at higher rates than whites. But the number of Black students enrolling as freshman has dropped 2.4 percent since 2014, according to USF.

“It's a trend that we don't like to see,” said Paul Dosal, vice president of student success at USF. It’s also troubling, he said, because once Black students enroll at USF, they tend to do well.

"Our graduation rates and persistence rates for black students are great, in fact they are being retained and graduate at rates higher than white students."

Dosal and colleagues at USF plan to use a recent $60,000 grant from the Helios Education Foundation to research ways to boost Black enrollment.

The university says it will hire an outside consultant and come up with an action plan by June.

Anddrikk Frazier is co-founder of USF's Black Leadership Network, and is leading the effort along with Dosal to encourage more Black students to enroll as freshmen.

Frazier said more local outreach could help recruit students to USF in Tampa, St. Petersburg and Sarasota.

"I think a lot of people don't understand the breadth and scope of opportunities at all three campuses," said Frazier.

"I also think we need to make the community feel like they are engaged and a part of the USF community and I am specifically talking about the Black community."

According to a USF statement, "in 2019, 73.8 percent of Black students graduated within six years, ahead of 72.4 percent for both Hispanic and white students. "

In 2018, Black students "were retained at a rate of 95.1 percent, the highest of all racial and ethnic groups," it added.

"However, from 2014 to 2019, USF’s Black first-time-in-college student enrollment declined by 2.4 percent and Black transfer student enrollment decreased by 0.7 percent."

The Helios Education Foundation is also a sponsor of WUSF.

I cover health and K-12 education – two topics that have overlapped a lot since the pandemic began.