It isn’t unique to UWM, but it’s among the worst.

Only one in five black students (21%) who enroll full-time at UW-Milwaukee graduates in six years, and the completion gap between black and white students is 24.3 percentage points, according to the report from  The Education Trust, which analyzed graduation rates for black students at 676 traditional public and private nonprofit colleges and universities.


About 35% of UWM’s incoming freshmen graduate in the bottom half of their high school class. And the most recent four-year graduation rate for black students in Milwaukee Public Schools — a major feeder school district for UWM — is 54.7%. Wisconsin also has the nation’s widest gap in high school graduation rates for white and black students.


Many black students encounter financial, academic and social challenges that can make their path to a degree more difficult, the report says. Increasing college costs have a disproportionate effect on black students and contribute to higher debt levels. And inequalities in K-12 education mean too many black students start college in noncredit remedial courses, the report notes.

What appears is happening is that UWM has lowered admission standards to inflate the enrollment of minority students – an effort fueled by easy money from the federal government and other sources. Many of the students entering were not equipped to succeed, so they didn’t. this also left many of them with debt and no degree to show for it.

The answer is not to lower the standards for graduation or to funnel more money into remedial programs, thus inflating the price of college even more. The answer is to acknowledge that there are many post-high school educational opportunities including skilled trade apprenticeships, tech schools, two-year schools, community colleges, industry training, and yes, four-year universities. The admission standards for any of these options should reflect the basic skills needed so that people entering them will succeed completing the school and set them up to be successful in their careers. We do more damage than good by admitting people to schools in which they are ill-equipped to succeed.