Alongside other colleges and universities nationwide, Cal State Monterey Bay (CSUMB) is having its Annual African American Graduation Celebration on Friday, May 20 from 7p.m. to 9p.m. at the University Center Ball Room.
The thirteenth annual celebration aims to extend additional acknowledgment to students of color who have the odds stacked against them. "Even here at CSUMB, an institution that strives to reach out to those historically underrepresented, we find that students of African-American descent have different struggles with adapting to CSUMB's campus life and often times transfer or take a leave of absence. We appreciate them for hanging in there," said Asya Guillory, an Information Specialist of the Service Leaning Institute.
The keynote speakers of the ceremony include the President and a representative of the Black Students United. After their opening remarks and the Black National Anthem, there will be a kente stoles and certificates awarding, as well as performances by students. The biggest highlight of the event is the Graduates Acknowledgements: the graduates speak their mind and thank those who have encouraged and supported them. Campus community members are also encouraged to attend. The event is free of cost for attendees, and no RSVPs are required.
At Michigan State University, the event was bashed by several students claiming it "unfair and promoting separatism," CBS reported. Supporters of the event, confused with the unexpected resistance, explain, "…Many Black students are the first in their families to attend college, so the accomplishment often takes on greater meaning for them, their relatives and friends."
With the federal policies and school programs supporting the underrepresented, the African American enrollment rate for higher education is at an all-time high. Even though there is a serious disparity by 20 percent in the nation between the 43 percent of African American college graduation rate and 63 percent of Whites, according to The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, the group's college completion rate has improved by four percent in 2007 from the past three years.
The Department of Education reported a college degree certainly makes a difference in their lives, and society is favorably going discrimination-free in terms of wages; not only do African Americans with a four-year college degree earn more income than the ones without a college degree, but they also earn about the same amount of income as similarly educated Whites.
To reinforce such economical gains to minority groups including African Americans and to the community, 23 CSU campuses proposed the "Increasing Graduation Rates Project," in Feb. 2010. CSUMB's mission is "to improve our 6-year First-Time Freshmen (FTF) graduation rate from 35.6 percent to 49.3 percent, by 2015," according to the Division of Academic Affairs. They also proposed specific action plans such as improving academic advising, developing early intervention strategies for at-risk students and more. However, it is expected over $550 million budget cuts for CSU's 2011-12 fiscal year could slow or, in the worst case, cancel the campaign.
African American Graduation Celebration will not be affected by the budget cut since it is primarily funded through donations, not by state funding, according to Michelle Hill, Records and Registration Coordinator. Yet the cut might take away the opportunity from African American students in CSUMB and California to make a leap in their college completion.