More African American UMSL students on track to graduate

Academic supports stemming from UMSL’s participation in the St. Louis Talent Hub has more students on pace to complete their degrees on time.

As the St. Louis region grapples with its need for a diverse, skilled workforce, changes on college campuses are showing signs of progress. First-year students at the University of Missouri-St. Louis (UMSL) earned the highest grade point average (GPA) ever in fall 2018, and for the first time African American students at UMSL had a term GPA average greater than 2.5.  These students also increased their average credit hours passed for the fall term, so more students are on pace to complete their degrees on time thanks in part to efforts UMSL has undertaken as part of the St. Louis Talent Hub.

“This represents great progress for students at UMSL,” said Alan Byrd, Jr., Vice Provost for Enrollment Management at UMSL and Co-Chair of St. Louis Graduates. “We had significant increases in credit hours passed and grade point averages for students due to strategic investments in academic support.  We focused on courses that have been historic barriers to academic progress at UMSL, and now our students are passing at much higher rates.”

What does it mean to be a Talent Hub?

One year ago, St. Louis Graduates was honored to be designated a Talent Hub by Lumina Foundation and Kresge Foundation. The designation, which was accompanied by a three-year $275,000 grant, recognized work underway to accelerate degree completion for low-income students and African American students. The St. Louis Talent Hub is a collaboration with five four-year institutions – Maryville University, Southeast Missouri State University, University of Central Missouri, University of Missouri-St. Louis and Webster University – along with the St. Louis Regional Chamber and St. Louis Community Foundation where St. Louis Graduates is a component fund.

Initiatives underway through the St. Louis Talent Hub partners focus on three strategies: just-in-time academic supports, flexible and sufficient financial aid, and advancing system change through professional learning. At UMSL this includes pro-active and ongoing tutoring for students in courses that historically have derailed retention like college algebra, along with grants to support students who have exhausted federal aid or have short-term emergency needs.

Mia Jones is a rising senior at UMSL pursuing a degree in social work, and she used the University Tutoring Center (UTC) for assistance with multiple courses in fall 2018.  She participated in group tutoring sessions for biology and had an individual tutor for a psychology course.

“I am not a science person so biology was really difficult for me,” Jones said. “But the group tutoring sessions were very helpful.  We studied together and supported each other throughout the course. I definitely would not have been as successful in that class without support from the UTC. I probably learned as much in the tutoring sessions as I did sitting through the course lectures.”

This is an example of the proactive academic support recently implemented at UMSL.  The University Tutoring Center created group tutoring sessions for some of the courses historically most challenging for students before the semester began and actively recruited students to join the study groups.  The St. Louis Talent Hub is working to replicate effective best practices like these to increase student success across the region.

“The St. Louis region will only be able to meet its workforce goals by improving degree attainment rates for low-income students and students of color. That’s why the work of the Talent Hub is so critical, not only for students at UMSL but across the region,” said Byrd.