The Racial Gap in College Student Graduation Rates

The National Collegiate Athletic Association recently released graduation rate data for all students and also for student athletes at its Division I institutions.

The data shows that 43 percent of all black students who matriculated at these colleges and universities in the fall of 2004 earned their degree within six years. For whites entering college in 2004, the graduation rate was 23 percentage points higher at 66 percent. This gap has increased in recent years.

When we break down the data by gender, we see that the college graduation rate for black women who matriculated in 2004 was 46 percent. The rate for white women was 22 percentage points higher at 68 percent. The graduation rate for black men was 38 percent. This was 25 percentage points lower than the rate for white men.

The racial gap in graduation rates was much smaller for student athletes, many of whom receive financial scholarship aid. For black athletes who entered college in 2004, 55 percent went on to earn a diploma within six years. The rate for white student athletes was 68 percent.

Black women student athletes graduated at a rate of 66 percent. This was only eight percentage points lower than the rate for white women student athletes. The racial graduation rate gap for male student athletes was 12 percentage points, half the racial gap for male students as a whole.

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  1. The widening disparity in graduation rates between black and white degree students, shows that college and university professors have to do more to assist more students to graduate. Professors have to implement retention strategies that have proved to be successful in keeping black male and female students in college long enough to graduate.

    Too many black students, 62% males; and 54% female are starting their college education, with high expectation, but do not fulfil their dream, because in part, they have not been given the quality and quantity of support they need, and deserve, to stay in college!

    College and University professors have a case to answer. It’s not always the fault of black male and female students.

    • As a staff member in an academic support center at an urban university, I agree with some of your views, but only up to a point. Perhaps it’s not always the fault of black male and female students, but someone other than their professors need to confront the fact that there are things that should have been done before the students ever stepped foot in the university. For starters, the ability to critically write, read, and think should be developed long before a student reaches colleges. I vividly remember reading all kinds of books and magazines that my uneducated father brought home from his maintenance job. Later, I studied Julius Caesar, Chaucer, Beowulf, Pepys, and Pope in an inner city, public junior high school. Today, I see students who have never even heard of these authors. Instead, they struggle to write a simple thesis for a five-paragraph essay. Sadder still are those students who have been led to believe that they can write, only to find out that what was acceptable in high school won’t cut it in college. I’m certain of one thing: education begins with an environment which supports reading, writing, and thinking long before children attend college. Until the black community AS A WHOLE assumes responsibility for its share of educating its children, black students will continue to appear at the doors of higher education bereft of those basic, gateway abilities crucial to navigating the often choppy waters of college–and there is not a retention program in the world (including academic support) that will make a difference.

  2. As for the comments made by “a staff member in an academic support center at an urban university”, you are surrounded by individuals that can truly make a difference in the life of so many. Why not join forces with individuals on your campus to launch an initiative to rectify this age old problem, opposed to shining your beacon light on issues that the Black Community is fully aware of. Well done is always better than well said.

    Thanks for your comments and concern.

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