Blacks-Only Classes at Local College Designed to Improve Student Success

Ted Slowick, Chicago Tribune, August 4, 2016

A couple of Daily Southtown readers want to know why Moraine Valley Community College restricts enrollment in some classes to blacks only.

“While helping my son register for college at Moraine Valley Community College, we noticed that the required course College 101 has two sections limited to African-American students,” one Speak Out participant observed. “He wants to know why there are not two sections limited to Asian-American students? How about Native American students?”

Another reader sent me a copy of course listings. Sure enough, for the one-credit-hour, fall semester course, “College: Changes, Challenges, Choice,” there’s a note that registration for some sections is “limited to African-American students.”

The course meets for eight weeks. Students get together for nearly two hours per session in a discussion/lecture format. All full-time students at the Palos Hills-based school are required to take the course their first year, said Jessica Crotty, the college’s assistant director of communications.

The course “provides an opportunity to assess your purpose for college, assess your study strategies, set college and career goals, examine your values and decision-making skills, and develop an appreciation for diversity,” according to the catalog description.

Because several sections of the course are offered at any given time, for years the college has restricted enrollment in some sections to various demographic groups, Crotty said.

“Sometimes we set aside sections for specific populations, including veterans and older students,” she said.

Benefits of limiting enrollment in certain classes to targeted populations include increased engagement and student participation.

“The focus can be on specific issues they face,” Crotty said. “For example, veterans face a specific set of challenges. Students feel comfortable and are more likely to open up because they’re with other students who are like them.”

Moraine Valley’s enrollment of more than 34,000 credit and non-credit students includes 38 percent who are minorities.

Higher education loves research, and research shows that college-readiness courses like the one at Moraine Valley improve student retention and graduation rates. Evidence supports the practice of restricting enrollment in a class to blacks only, because outcomes show students are more likely to achieve academic success through interventions like peer support.

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