When it comes to the success of black students, the University of South Florida takes the No. 1 spot in Florida and the sixth nationwide, according to a new report from the Education Trust.
The non-profit advocacy group's report looked at the achievement gap between black and white students at nearly 700 institutions. At many schools, black students fall far behind, with average graduation rates 22 percentage points below their white peers.
Not at USF.
Nationally, black students graduated at an average rate of 40.9 percent across 2012, 2013 and 2014. At USF, 63.7 percent graduated, closing the completion gap with white students.
And since then, black students' six-year graduation rate has increased to 69 percent, the university said.
The change comes down to a deliberate culture shift at USF, spokesman Adam Freeman said in a news release.
In the last decade, the university has committed to the idea that "every student will succeed, and that student success is everyone's responsibility."
USF added programs to support this ethos and began using data to analyze first-year student performance. The predictive system identified students in need of support, which helped the university link them to a care team trained to help them persist.
The average graduation rate soared from 47 percent to 67 percent, attracting recognition from organizations like the Center for American Progress.
"A fundamental principle of our student success initiative is the belief that all students, regardless of race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status, can and will succeed if given the opportunity to do so," Paul Dosal, vice president for student success and student affairs, said in a news release.
The report focuses on full-time, bachelor's degree-seeking students at four-year, public and private non-profit colleges and universities. Black student enrollment is up 37 percent at these institutions over the last decade, but at many universities their success rates have remained stagnant.
No. 1 overall on the list is Georgia State University, where black students graduated at 56 percent, a rate 6 percent higher than white students across 2012, 2013 and 2014.
Florida State University came in at No. 18 nationwide, the second-highest Florida public school. At FSU, the average six-year graduation rate for black students is 75 percent, about 3 percentage points below white students.
Florida also has one of the nation's worst-performing schools. At private Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, only 25 percent of black students graduate in six years, a full 21 percentage points below white students.