Bridgewater State University is growing more diverse and garnering national recognition for its efforts to serve black students. And, that’s no surprise to those who know the university best.
A report from the University of Southern California Race and Equity Center lists BSU among the top 36 four-year, public higher education institutions in the nation when ranked on several data points related to black undergraduates. The study reviewed enrollment equity, gender equity, degree completion equity and the ratio of black students to black faculty members.
“Bridgewater State University has a campus-wide commitment to supporting the success of all of our students and to closing achievement gaps,” said Dr. Sabrina Gentlewarrior, vice president for student success and diversity. “This report is a testament to the entire campus’s efforts over a great number of years.”
In the USC report, BSU received high rankings in several areas:
- Having a higher percentage of black students than blacks’ representation among 18- to 24-year-old citizens in Massachusetts
- Having a comparable breakdown of black male and female students as the national figures for all racial/ethnic groups
- Having a graduation rate for black students comparable to the institution’s overall graduation rate.
Overall, Bridgewater scored a three on a four-point scale, placing it above the Massachusetts average of 2.81 and among the top schools in the United States.
Gentlewarrior attributed BSU’s achievements to many factors, including the Center for Multicultural Affairs’ efforts to serve students of color and their white peers and the dedication of faculty and librarians to supporting students. The university’s 15 student-led multicultural groups are also a point of pride for the campus.
Bridgewater has previously received accolades for its support of minority students, including a 2015 report from The Education Trust that lauded the university for closing the achievement gap between students of color and white students.
The university’s own data shows the number of students of color grew from 2,085 (19 percent of students) in fall 2014 to 2,559 (23 percent) in fall 2018. The percent of first-time, full-time students of color who graduated from BSU in four years grew from 23.9 percent for 2006 freshmen to 30.6 percent for 2013 freshmen.
“This progress is based first on the extraordinary liberal arts education offered at BSU resulting in increasing graduation rates overall as well as a campus-wide commitment to the success of all students,” Gentlewarrior said.
Students of color reported feeling as welcome as their white peers in 2015 and 2018 on Bridgewater’s Campus Climate Survey. The university also offers a range of interventions to close achievement/opportunity gaps.
The Retention Grant program, for example, identifies undergraduate students in good academic standing with genuine financial need and unpaid tuition and fees preventing them from registering for the upcoming semester. Students are offered up to $3,000 in institutional grant funding to cover past student bills, allowing them to stay at BSU and register for next semester’s courses or graduate. The average grant amount is $1,932.54, and 85 percent of students receiving the grants have continued at BSU or graduated.
The BSU Bears Summer Scholars Program helps students who have been accepted to BSU but have lower high school GPAs. They receive a free three-credit public speaking course, textbook and parking along with lunch presentations on campus resources. More than 84 percent of students in the first cohort continued at BSU in their second year. That’s higher than BSU’s overall first- to second-year retention rate of 78 percent. Students in the second cohort retained from fall to the spring semester at 94.7 percent, compared to 90.3 percent overall.
Despite these programs’ success, BSU has no plans to rest on its laurels.
“Bridgewater State University is extremely intentional in our classrooms, in our co-curricular experiences and in our work to create a welcoming campus and climate to ensure that our students from a diverse range of backgrounds can succeed and reach their goals,” Gentlewarrior said. (Story by Brian Benson, University News & Video).