Wed May 16, 2012
Native American enrollment up at UW but graduation and retention rates lag
Enrollment of Native American students in the University of Wisconsin System jumped 50% over five years, according to the latest available figures. But Native student graduation and retention rates lag well behind the number for all students.
UW System figures from 2009 show more than 1800 Native American students enrolled. That’s 550 more than in the fall of 2005. But the six year graduation rates are 65% by all students, compared to 40% for Native students.
Ed Manydeeds of Eau Claire is the first Native American member of the UW Board of Regents. He says retention is a problem, “Native Americans are more than capable of being successful. It’s just a struggle to have them take advantage of opportunities and stay with it. That’s something that we’re constantly dealing with.”
Manydeeds says much of this can be drawn to cultural differences. He’s hoping UW campuses have a place for Native students to go, “As kind of a community center for them, taking the place of their families or extended families on the reservation; which is very important to Native people, to have that center where they can go for support and strength.”
Northland College in Ashland is just starting an Indigenous People’s Center. Red Cliff Tribal member James Pete is the new director. He plans cultural sharing meetings with the campus and community on things like ricing, making maple syrup, and sovereignty. He says that can foster respect, “That’s probably something that’s been worked at since 1890 and it’s going to be worked on until 2090 and beyond. That’s part of the challenge that we call have.”
Manydeeds says the UW System is working with tribes and Native student groups in hopes of seeing retention and graduation rates increase.