New Data Shows a Wide Racial Disparity in the GPAs of College Graduates

New data from the U.S. Department of Education shows a wide racial disparity in the grade point averages of bachelor’s degree recipients. The data shows grades for students who earned their degrees during the 2007-08 academic year.

Some 75 percent of all White bachelor degree recipients had a grade point average of 3.0 or higher. For Blacks, 55.3 percent of all graduates had a grade point average of 3.0 or higher. Whites were more than twice as likely as Blacks to graduate with grade point averages better than 3.5. Two out of every five White graduates but less than one in five Black graduates achieved a GPA greater than 3.5.

Blacks were nearly three times as likely as Whites to graduate with a GPA of less than 2.5. Some 14.5 percent of Black graduates and 5.5 percent of White graduates had a GPA of less than 2.5.

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  1. One factor that is rarely discussed in academe is the fact that Blacks – not uncommonly – are harshly graded. A single instance of receiving an unfair grade in a course or exam can be devastating to any student; if it happens again and again, the domino effect is almost inevitable. Depression and attenuating motivation take their tolls.

    If a Black student makes a lot of noise about a problematic grade – especially when the offending faculty member is racist (or perceived to be), that student can be “tagged” as troublesome, and other faculty may be inclined to grade that student harshly as well. I think that studies looking into this problem could be quite enlightening. There are many anecdotes articulated by some of the most highly accomplished Black scholars about instances of racist grading and evaluation that they experienced as students.

    If one then stops to imagine what may happen to Black students who are “just” adequate or decent, the picture is not too encouraging. Ironically, some Caucasians seem to be under the impression that there is a liberal conspiratorial faction of Whites that deliberately inflates grades of Black students. That paranoid group believe so deeply in white supremacy that they simply cannot believe Blacks are capable of superior performance. This vocal minority (?) constitutes the firewall against affirmative action; the assumption is that any Black student with high grades – especially from a majority-White institution – is somehow the beneficiary of the liberal-grading constituency; that idea provides a foundation or rationale for continued discrimination against Blacks, with claims that, “They aren’t qualified anyway.” Like much in America, it’s a vicious circle.

    • Claude I agree with you 100 %. Cycle. When it comes to GPA it depends on your major as well …. Computer science classes are harder … so expect lower GPA’s in that field… Once again…. Blacks are less likely to go to private competitive high schools that prepare them for College and higher GPAs…. Blacks do not make monies in this country because they are denied the opportunity for high paying jobs…. simple…. I have top degrees from top schools, Great GPAs but I am struggling…. Job interviews are held by caucasians all the time who are always surprised to see someone like me…. ask me about my grades etc… The only advice I have for each minority parent is to motivate their kids to be the best of the best once they are in college. Parental guidance is very important… The issue with blacks in this country once again boils down to ECONOMICS….It is sad ….

      • Well you already a liar, “top degrees from top univeristies” and you used the term monies? As in $$$? You definitely don’t have a degree from anywhere, and do you not understand what affirmative action is, companies seriously go out and specifically try to hire people of different races besides white. Thats literally all I have to say about that.

      • Our school system built a brand new magnet school in the heart of the projects. From day one, we were beaten, assaulted, and belittled due to our caucasian skill color. Local blacks were simply zoned there, whereas the whites from the decent side of town, had to meet IQ and GPA requireapply, and apply.

        From day one it was a struggle. First class was American History, where the only other white child (we were both jews) and i were told to sit in the back of the class for the year tof learn a lesson about Rosa Parks. We were only ever addressed as “White Boy #1”, and “White Boy 2”. For the whole year that was how we titled our class papers.

        We were shot at on the soccer field because all 20 white children in school played soccer. I can go on, and on.

        Then, finally, Junior year where we apply for college. I had a 4.3 GPA, on course to be Validictorian, 800+ volunteer hours, honor society, internship at NASA… you name it.

        I STILL got turned down by my college of choice, while 5 black children got in. None had a GPA over 3.4, and none had ANY extracuriculars. I was devistated. Following an incident where the white children were forced to go class-to-class to beg forgiveness for white atrocities, all of our parents sent us back to our zoned school.

        I ended up going to Virginia Tech for 2 years (and getting straight A’s) before i could “prove myself” and transfer. Whenonegot to my dream school , I looked up those 5 black kids, and only 1 was still there. The rest had flunked out.

        My point is, that a persons opinion supersedes statistics, and untill I meet an African who can claim the discrimation we’ve faced (we’ll ignore 2,000 years of slavery in AFRICA), I’m gonna continue to call them crybabies.

        Get over it. We did. And I’ve gotten to a point in my life where if ANYONE addresses me as “white boy”, I behave the same way as an African-American if they were called “boy”. I punch that person in the mouth.

        I stear clear of burning my neighborhood down and looting liquor stores though. That just makes no sense.

        If anyone asks, I’d be happy to tell where I learned the N-word from. Its a good one

          • It does not sound fake to me. I was the only white person at an all Black school. The government realized they opened up white schools to blacks but not the other way around. I had no problem with it, I am guessing some people did. My dad dropped me off for the first day. It was a mix of lots not wanting me there, and some okay with it. I had a lot of bad times at this school, was the victim of racial prejudice most definitely. I made one good friend there, but only one good person of color. My parents raised me to respect good, decent people. Evil , wrongdoers, and just plain should not be here any longer people do not respect, or worry about. This country is not as racist as the government wants us to believe, but maybe that is what you think racism goes both ways even if you don’t think so. I say go to another country to live see what it is like in other places find out how good you really had it here because you don’t know how fortunate we are here in America

    • Okay here’s a few reasons why you are completely wrong
      1) you said blacks are harshly graded
      – okay it’s almost impossible to be harshly graded, the only possible cases this can happen are classes where mainly what is due are papers which are graded purely by the professor, versus classes like algebra, chemistry, biology, history, etc. are only graded by if you are right or wrong, I’ve had a professor that hated my guts but guess what, there’s wasn’t a damn thing he could do because I did my work and did good on the tests
      2) you touched a little bit on liberal mindset by professors
      -I agree with you completely that there are a lot more liberal professors than conservative, so you basically said if a black person does do good they say it’s because the liberal prof. helped out the black student, okay most liberal professors are generous with grades to people of all races just because that’s kind of how the liberal mindset is.
      3) To sum it up what you’ve said is if you get a bad grade it’s because I’m black, if I get a good grade everyone will say it’s because I’m black, you are basically screwed no matter what, well how about this, why don’t you just go in there do the best you can do, screw what anyone says and realize the grades I’m making are because of my hardworking and stop focussing so much of it on race.

      • I did an experiment with a fellow student some 25 years ago in a New York State University. We were the only two black individuals in this Science major in the entire school and one day he asked me why we were getting such low grades.I tried to explain it to him but he would not believe my answer. An opportunity arose one day when the professor for one of our classes gave an exam where the 12 students in the class could sit around and collaborate and put the answers down. He left the classroom for the entire time and left us to our own devices. At this time I told the other Black individual, that this is the perfect opportunity to prove my point about bias in grading. All 12 people in the class put down the same answers and I deliberately made sure that my white counterparts had the same answers word for word as me and my black brother. Well guess what happened with the grades. Low and behold me and the other black person got the lowest grades on the test when I compared it with the other individuals in the class. Now I know that talk is cheap but as a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan my world is bond as a military combat veteran.

    • What a COP OUT response! Back up your data about a systemically racist academic staff. Just because a black kid does not do the homework or study for the test and consequently gets a bad grade make the teacher a racist! You get what you put into your effort. The issue is more about personal responsibility and accountability. If you do not have those you are doomed to fail. GUARANTEED.

    • Well I guess the “normal” thing is to NOT make a lot of annoying noise because things don’t go your way. Fall in line like everyone else and compete. Blacks are statistically lower in avg GPA% compared with Whites, Asians, Hispanics, and Pacific Islanders. This is not because of racism, anyone with common sense knows this.

  2. Claude,
    While I understand your point, classroom grading is the least of the issues with majority white institutions because neither faculty nor Deans — not to mention legal counsel– want students in their faces with charges of racism, and Presidents want any hint of such claims to disappear.
    Rather than allowing unhelpful claims of “harsh grading” and “racist assumptions of inferiority” to define the issue, how about looking at a composite of factors such as: HBCU GPAs versus those from majority white institutions; what Black students began with(i.e. SAT scores), and what they ended with (i.e. GRE scores)? The standardized test harangue is less than useless; Black graduates are competing in a standardized world. Playing fields will never be leveled; as they never were for all Caucasians in this country, we all need to get beyond that unhelpful social fiction. Simplified excuse-making will not change the data.
    Remember: the Black electorate could not have sent Barack Obama back to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., Washington, DC in 2008 or 2012.

  3. As a college student I have maintained a GPA of 3.7 or better. A have worked as a mentor to college freshmen and sometimes they do not set high enough goals. I was told by students, in several orientation sessions; that a Bachelor’s degree does not have a grade on it and therefore a passing grade of “C” is an adequate goal. My reply is, “I do not want a doctor who was a “C” student”

  4. I am a (white) college professor in Computer Science. I want you to know that many professors try very hard to work with minority students to try to even the playing field. I spend extra time and effort to bring students backgrounds up so that they can be more successful in this field, whether they are black, white, male or female. I encourage them, support them, help them in many ways outside of the classroom to help them graduate. It hurts when I read statements that charge me as being a racist. Please, please, lets bring the emotions out of this discussion so that we can improve the situation over all for every person who wants to work in technical fields, rather than just fight against each other.

  5. I am an African American whose GPA is 3.63 and looking at these statistics makes me so mad. How do expect us to have good GPA’s if we don’t get the same teaching as other “white schools”. We don’t get the same help as other students of non color do. We need people who will provide the same education as white schools.

    • Disparity of school funding is not racial but primarily the economics of the school districting. Simply, districts in affluent areas offer more resources than other districts. We are a capitalist country, just saying.

      • This is where redlining has played an historical role. To this day, it is highly problematic and I can’t understand why we haven’t devised a more fair approach to school funding. It is humiliating and cruel to punish vulnerable children and relegate them to substandard schools! I would like to see this one aspect of public schooling changed. I think this will lead to better outcomes for blacks wishing to obtain good grades in institutions of higher learning and thus be able to compete on a more level footing in the job market. And bear in mind that this will take years to correct, generations in fact, but it starts with this crucial change.

    • Three to four decades ago there were two school systems in Shelby County, TN, Memphis City schools and Shelby County schools. The city schools all received the same amount of money and it was more than the county schools. The city school teachers were paid more than the county school teachers. The county schools, let’s say were predominantly white and the city schools were predominantly black. Though it was a continuum of races. The county schools always preformed much better than the city schools. Certainly there is some mixing in performance between city and county schools.

      If you would rank the schools, you’d probably find that the schools that did better had a higher proportion of intact families. And those schools that did worse had a higher proportion of children from family structures that provided less guidance. Educational outcomes may be more cultural than racially related. There are obvious reasons for the helpfulness of more guidance from the home. Ironically, people want to move to a good school district, but in reality the good school is good because it is made up of families that help their children at home be prepared to succeed in school.

      Note: We all know that Asians generally perform better than blacks, whites, and Hispanics educationally. Well, Asians also have the highest percentage of intact families.

  6. I went to a majority black school in southern Arkansas: I saw the very worst of public education: constant fights, hallways that smell like weed, kids with guns all over the place, theft, total disregard for the balue of property and teachers who were at thier collective wits’ end. I’m not black, but I’m also not white, and throughout my time there, I felt as if I was largely exempt from any sort of discrimination, but rather, I was accepted by teachers and students, of all races. I saw black kids, good kids, recieve apropriate discipline, which they misunderstood as harshness. And furthermore, I graduated from a large state University with a 4.0 GPA, recieving a degree in mathematics and another in physics, and I am now a doctoral student in physics at the University of Texas. I have graded many, many papers in the last eight years, and I have never seen any instance of (even plausible) discrimination against students in the context of grades or jobs. I have, on the contrary, seen underqualified minorities fail quite emphatically in positions which they were awarded largely because of thier status as a minority. Affirmative action is a good thing for lots of people, but I went to a poor public highschool just like all of the other kids, I had the same socioeconomic troubles as most of the other kids in my school, and I (the only one in my class that I know of) have been EXTREMELY successful in obtaining a quality education, and there is absolutely no plausible justification for the claim that the other kids who went to my highschool didnt have the same opportunity. I even purport the contrary: that is, the poor black kids with too many siblings and one parent had WAY more opportunity than I did, but they didn’t capatilize on it and that is no one’s fault but thiers.

    • That’s a pretty harsh conclusion, but understandable considering that you started with the same horrible school experience. However your circumstance is entirely anecdotal and not representative. First of all, you possessed, clearly an exceptional mind and, what I would also contend, an exceptional temperament and outlook. The same is true in my case also and we must admit we are in the distinct minority. We are not “ordinary”. How people who are extraordinary behave in trying conditions is not the same as how the vast majority will behave. You have also not put any emphasis for unequal outcomes on culture. I assume, though you haven’t identified your race, from your outlook and choice of career, that you are Asian. Asians have higher IQ’s than whites in general and also come from a culture that nurtures and supports academic learning, prowess and is highly competitive. I admire Asians greatly and would love to live and work with them. Blacks come from a culture that nurtures a grudge held against the majority population and emphasizes beauty, vitality, high-spiritedness and social adjustment, while strongly deemphasizing intellectual ability. Therefore, young black students are conditioned in their community from an early age to fit into that social expectation. A teacher must fight a losing battle against this mindset and usually will lose. A child must be truly exceptional to resist the pull of this culture. Black culture must change from one of victim mentality and families headed by single mothers where the males are all deadbeat dads to one of two parent, working households who uphold the same ethics and principals as those who have traditionally succeeded. When this is once again (as it was before the Great Society changes) the case, blacks will again be competitive. The majority of people in this country wish them success and do not bear animosity. You can’t lay everything at the blame of bad luck, victimhood or anything else and succeed in any society in the world. It is a formula for failure. But it starts with good schools, and you succeeded due to your culture and your unique gifts. Let us try harder to find ways to level the playing field so ordinary kids with unique cultural handicaps have the same chance that you did.

  7. There is a logical reason for this, affirmative action. A black student with a given SAT and HS GPA is given entry into a university that predominantly consists of students with higher SATs and higher HS GPAs. They are competing with fellow students of a higher academic caliber and consequently earn a lower GPA. For this reason alone, affimative action may cause black students more harm than good. All students, black or otherwise, should consider attending the university they will be most successful at, not necessarily the best one they can get in to.

    • This comment is loaded with so many false assumptions that I hardly understand why it is on a supposed “Journal for Blacks in Higher Education” in 2020. I was told people got smarter as the generations came, but people are definitely regressing and the majority of these comments prove it. First of all, think relevance. We are in 2020. None of these statistics are relevant. They are for the 2007-8 academic year. The whole black-white dynamic in schools is ever-changing whether people want it or not. The whole “Black-White” Gap is a fantasy when it comes to grades. It is a lie for standardized tests as well because they are hardly standard these days with all the money games going on with that. In 2018, a lot of rich kids scores were inflated by over 400 points through the SAT scandal. That year I scored in the 90th percentile ( as a black student on a rigorous AP/IB curricula, w/ ECs, work, and family obligations, and noooo I did not mark my race). Yet, I supposedly benefit from AA. For some background on my record before entering college, I not only attained an IB diploma, but graduated at the top 1% of my class and matriculated in a prestigious private 4-year college. I attained a solid 4.0 GPA for 3 semesters on a rigorous premed courseload (w/ ECs, work, and a somewhat social life) and then transferred for money issues. The majority of the merit scholarships that could supplement my hard earned money were not given to lower to middle income students, but were allocated to the more affluent groups. That is another issue. But you claim that black students benefit from affirmative action and then fail at their respective schools because they want prestige. I supposedly benefited from affirmative action and excelled at my school so you are wrong. Your claim does not hold. It is too hasty a generalization and a dangerous one too. You cannot apply that to every black person sitting in a college classroom. Stop driving the false assumption, that black students are just getting into schools that they can get into. For the majority of us, we are there because we deserve to be there just as much as the whites. Even with the little leniency that schools provide if you missed the mark somewhere. I supposedly benefited from affirmative action but definitely killed it at the school I went to even if the students were supposedly at a higher caliber than me. Most people suspected my HS SAT was a lot higher than it was because I am actually smart. Higher education is supposed to be a place to mold bright minds not a political place to dictate who who gets the money/jobs. If people understood that, maybe people would actually get jobs after high school instead of fill college dorms with lack of passion for learning and racist/sexist/divisive ideals. Until then, we will continue talking about race gaps and who is better, but it honestly does not solve any of our problems. And we have a lot of them.

  8. “Money answereth all things”.

    Including education. What Blacks need is “black capital formation” through savings and investments. This would raise all aspects of Black life. A little less spent on hair and bling, and and a little more saving and investing would do wonders.

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