Blacks Reach Racial Parity in College Enrollments, But Lag in Degree Attainments

department_of_educationPreliminary data from the U.S. Department of Education for the 2011-12 academic year shows that there were 4,223,506 Blacks/African Americans enrolled in degree-granting institutions of higher education in the United States. Blacks made up 14.5 percent of all enrollments in degree-granting institutions. This is a slightly higher percentage of Blacks than the Black percentage of the U.S. population. Thus, in terms of overall enrollments in high education, Blacks have reached parity with Whites.

Although Blacks enroll in higher education at a rate equal to their share of the population, they are less successful in degree attainment. The figures show that Blacks earned 307,469 degrees at these higher education institutions during the 2011-12 academic year. Black made up 10.1 percent of all degree earners.

Blacks were 19.2 percent of all students who earned degrees at private, for-profit degree granting institutions but only 9.2 percent of all degree earners at private, not-for-profit degree-granting institutions.

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  1. This is a huge milestone. For so long attainment has been the goal. We now have to shift our focus to retention and completion. I believe a major driver for retention and completion is to be able to clarify what success could look like beyond college. Our students must see themselves achieving career success in life after college.

  2. As Ms. Robinson says, this is a milestone and, while I agree with Ms. Robinson that students need to know what success beyond college looks like, I feel that they also need to be coached on what success looks like IN college. This is especially true for first-generation, minority, and returning adult students. As an associate dean for academic services, I frequently observed that knowing how to navigate the terrain confers a distinct advantage.

  3. Marcia and Celesti,

    The issues surrounding retention and graduation for minority students although complex can be addressed successfully if institutions have the will and commitment to do so. Early as well as current research provides insight as to the factors that contribute to student attrition as well as student retention. Tinto’s research that points to both academic and social integration is applicable to minority students as well. I think that many institutions are doing ‘patchwork’ attempts at addressing the problems and feel they can just point to these programs as their solutions to addressing these chronic challenges that confront minority students. The other issue, among too many to cite in this commentary, is the need for those supposedly good programs to provide empirical data that demonstrates their effectiveness. How effectively these programs are assessed, evaluated, and implemented for all students should be examined. Last but not least, the conversation about resources and institutionalization of effective student-centered programs should take place as well. Do faculty spend as much time engaging and connecting with students as they do engaging in research? There are many issues to be considered but these are a few that any well meaning institution could begin to address if they are really serious about improving retention and graduation rates among minority students.

  4. Knowing what success looks like in college is a secondary factor at best. The core reason for lagging graduation rates in inadequate preparation at the lower levels. Black students are simply not as well prepared as their non-black competitors. “Student centered programming” at college will mean little until this core bottom line is seriously addressed by the black community- with a bottom line of hard results.

    The 14% enrollment figure is heartening, but not very impressive overall. In fact it represents somewhat limited gains since 1976- per the same US Dept of Education statistics. QUOTE:

    “The percentage of American college students who are Hispanic, Asian/Pacific Islander, and Black has been increasing. From 1976 to 2010, the percentage of Hispanic students rose from 3 percent to 13 percent, the percentage of Asian/Pacific Islander students rose from 2 percent to 6 percent, and the percentage of Black students rose from 9 percent to 14 percent.”

    Note that Asian and Hispanic attendance gains are much more than the black rate over the same span. “The look of success” and “student centered” programming may deliver some help to students on campus but they represent secondary bandaids at best. The pipeline is simply not being filled fast enough with PREPARED black students that can hold their own. One bright spot is black females, who have, to a much greater extent than black males, shown that such preparation and retention is possible.

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