- Associated Press - Monday, July 27, 2015

CRAWFORDSVILLE, Ind. (AP) - A small, male-only liberal arts college in western Indiana is hosting 30 students this summer as part of an effort to improve its retention and graduation rates for minority and first-generation college students.

The effort, known as the Wabash Liberal Arts Immersion Program, is necessary because minority students have reported less favorable experiences studying at Wabash College, said psychology professor and program director Robert Horton, citing a survey conducted about 10 years ago.

“I think that’s a national reality,” Horton said. “Students of color don’t find higher education as welcoming, friendly, fulfilling or as engaging as Caucasian students do.”

Of the 256 freshmen enrolled at Wabash College last fall, only 5 percent were black and less than 10 percent were Hispanic, while 72 percent of the class was made up of white students, according to the college’s Common Data Set for the 2014-2015 academic year.

Minority students also have expressed a feeling of culture shock when transitioning from an urban high school to a college in rural Indiana, said Jill Lamberton, an English instructor who’s involved in the program.

“They don’t like being put in the position of needing to be the vocal instrument for their whole ethnicity,” she said. “There’s a sense that they want to be seen for who they are and not just (as) the Latino or black kid in the class.”

The Wabash Liberal Arts Immersion Program, which is funded by an $800,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, allows students to live on campus in a group in which minorities are the majority, The (Lafayette) Journal & Courier (https://on.jconline.com/1etyshs ) reported. During those four weeks in July, the students also are exposed to college resources and mentors, and they’re able to take an English class for credit.

The grant will fund the program for three years, as well as yearlong academic support for the students and an internship opportunity.

“The head start they’re getting is going to prime them to hit the ground running in August in a way they might not have been able to do if they didn’t get this preview,” Horton said.

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Information from: Journal and Courier, https://www.jconline.com

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