Black Student Graduation Rates at High-Ranking Colleges and Universities

gradsilhouette-postLast week JBHE reported a huge racial gap in graduation rates between Black and White students at our nation’s largest universities. But, here at JBHE, we have always been particularly interested in how Black students are succeeding at our nation’s highest-ranked colleges and universities.

At these high-ranking colleges and universities, Black students generally do very well and in many cases have graduation rates that are very close to those of their White peers. At a few of the nation’s top-ranked schools, the Black graduation rate is actually higher than the rate for White students.

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JBHE research has found 18 high-ranking colleges and universities that have Black student graduation rates that have averaged over 90 percent over the past four years. The highest rate is at Harvard University, where 97 percent of entering Black students earn their degree within six years at Harvard. At Amherst College in Massachusetts, the Black student graduate rate is 95 percent. Blacks at Yale University and Swarthmore College graduate at a rate of 94 percent and Princeton University and the University of Pennsylvania have Black student graduation rates of 93 percent.

There are five high-ranking colleges where the Black student graduation rate is higher than the rate for White students. It is interesting that three of these five schools are women’s colleges: Wellesley, Bryn Mawr, and Mount Holyoke. Smith, another women’s college, has a Black student graduation that is only one percentage point lower than its rate for White students.

Among the high-ranking national universities, Harvard and Rice have Black graduation rates that are only one percentage point below the rate for Whites. Duke, Emory, Princeton, and the University of Pennsylvania have Black graduation rates that trail the White rate by only three percentage points.

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  1. It would be more interesting to know the demographics of what national and ethnic identities are being classified as “Black.” Specifically, what percentage of the Black graduating population has identifiable African American parentage back at least three generations in the United States?

    • Yeah, I think this would be an interesting thing to see as well, given that Black immigrants from the Caribbean and Africa disproportionately comprise the Black middle class. I would think that these groups (and their children) are driving these numbers.

      • SODR, substantiate that claim that most of the Black Middle Class is comprised of Caribbean and African immigrants. These seems to be a very common assertion of the West Indian community; however, I’d like to see some empirical evidence.

        • I do not feel that black immigrants make up the majority of the black middle class but a greater percentage of black immigrants are of the middle class than African Americans. That you can find that in the Pew Research Center. people often confuse this.

    • Why? Are blacks only a monolithic group when it comes to negative statistics? I do not see this question posed for prison rates and such. It really is irrelevant.

    • I don’t think it really matters. I’m sure these statistics were pulled from data where students self-identified as “African-American/Black.” If you have knowledge of the black community, you would know that self identification as such says as much (sometimes even more) about a persons cultural upbringing, life-experiences, and perspectives as their actual “racial” make-up. These factors usually influence data such as “graduation” rates more anything else anyways. If you have an understanding of the Black/African American subculture this type of research is really non-shocking and something I could have predicted in my sleep. I feel like this has been covered several times before, and is quite boring. Though, I’m grateful for the food-for-thought.

    • And with many having dire obstacles against them, and yet they’re still making it shine…Just think if the playing fields were even…WOW!

  2. My daughter graduated from United States Military Academy at West Point. I imagine Black students have high grad rates from all service academies. Did you review these highly rated institutions?

    • The same data for the Air Force Academy and West Point shows a Black graduation rate of 77 percent. For the Naval Academy the rate is one point higher at 78 percent.

      • Dear Editor,

        To complete the comparison (and pursue the thesis of this article), what is the graduation rate for Caucasian students at these academies? I see a statistic at a college-rating website that cites West Point as having a 76% overall graduation rate within 4 years as of 2013. The statistic is not broken down any further than that. Some research may prove useful.

        This cited graduation rate of 76% is higher than that for my own class, which numbered just over 1500 of us on 1 July 1981 and had 1052 graduates by 31 December 1985. That’s around 70%. I don’t know the graduation rate by demographic, though. I have the impression that the rates were very similar across demographics, but I can not say for sure.

        • The most recent four-year average graduation rate figure for Black students at West Point is 78 percent (80 percent for Black women and 77 percent for Black men). The equivalent graduation rate for Whites is 84 percent.

        • Yet whites have no racist obstacles to worry about so that was easy… You must admit, that The playing fields people are just not even… between a black and white world so let’s all give it to these melanin troopers… of greatness.

  3. Unfortunately a high ‘graduation rate’ is not necessarily a good thing. Might I suggest Harvard graduates a lot of students because … they just give them all degrees, regardless of whether or not they have ‘earned’ one?

    So – this table is very interesting in that it shows the difference between black and white graduation rates. And that is how it is sorted … good job!

    The article itself, unfortunately, introduces the topic of what is at most irrelevant and just perhaps a negative – absolute graduation rates.

    • I don’t like the way this is portrayed. Some of the “good” colleges that have higher black graduation rates also have lower overall grad rates than some of the ‘bad” colleges”. The problem is (I think) is colleges give a lot of scholarships etc to keep their #s up, esp when it comes to diversity. And society, high schools, and parents all give a lot of kids an overblown sense of how smart they are and don’t teach enough self motivation so when they get to college they are overwhelmed.
      Also does this account for all the 1st year dropouts? Which is a big problem for all students because a large amount of these kids aren’t ready for life without Mom and/or Dad pushing and helping them along.

    • “Unfortunately a high ‘graduation rate’ is not necessarily a good thing. Might I suggest Harvard graduates a lot of students because … they just give them all degrees, regardless of whether or not they have ‘earned’ one?”

      This is just silly. Sorry.

      First of all, a high graduation rate IS a good thing.

      Are you telling me it’s better for a university to allow MORE students to flunk out?


      Second, your suggestion that Harvard— HARVARD, mind you, the top ranked university in the world— just hands out degrees to students who haven’t earned them is ludicrous. This is ABSOLUTELY ludicrous. First of all, that would dilute their brand. Second of all, I have personal experience with this having gone to Harvard.

      Harvard is not an easy place to be. It does not coddle its students. It’s classes are filled with the hardest-driving, most competitive people you’ll meet anywhere– who also happen to mostly be geniuses.

      A more likely reason their graduation rate is so high is because of the quality of students they initially select.

      • Harvard is known to be one of the easiest top schools (at least among the Ivies) to graduate from. There is definite grade inflation there. Yes, it is true that Harvard as the best and brightest, as they might drive these numbers. But many college students know that Harvard is honestly not cruelly impossible to graduate from. Also this does not take into account of what major, as some majors are much harder to study and earn a degree than others.

        These statistics are interesting and can lead to something, but there is still room for improvement.

  4. Interesting responses to this insightful (even if not new) analysis. Having spent time at UCLA, Brown and Harvard Universities, I tracked with interest the graduation rate in other “hard to get into” institutions. With few exceptions most are >90% black graduation rate. This leads me to suggest two of several possible scenarios.
    a) Selectivity: It is hard to get into top schools for all persons. When reasonably well prepared students are enrolled, the black/white difference is rather small. The vast majority graduate.

    b) Alternatively, one can not exclude the possiblity too that given the “branding” impact and exceptionally high cost of non-graduation, top schools graduate students – once they have been selected in.

    Other scenarios are possible but based on personal experience, I am inclined to suggest more of scenario A is at play. I was pleased to observe that for the most part, the quality of students at premier highly selective universities did not seem to differ materially by race/ethnicity. That is a very good thing suggesting any remaining differences can be moderated if we improve quality of prior preparation!!!

    • I’m a Harvard graduate. It’s option B. It takes serious effort to not graduate. There’s a bunch of courses that are “guts” in certain majors that you can take if you want to use Harvard to network. Most students are extremely motivated for sure, but there are schools in what I call the We Try Harder division that have more mandated rigor.

      • I’m a Harvard grad too, and I think it’s option A.

        Then again, I was a physics major, and don’t recall any guts in my department. I recall it being hard as hell.

  5. “It would be more interesting to know the demographics of what national and ethnic identities are being classified as “Black.” Specifically, what percentage of the Black graduating population has identifiable African American parentage back at least three generations in the United States?”


    The home page of this website displays 6 newly minted black professors at Cornell. I’d say 4 out of the 6 clearly have European/white DNA. Racially, they’re mulatto/mulatta. Politically, they’re black.

    I’d be interested to know the actual [racial], not political, breakdown of graduation rates, i.e., mixed race vs. white vs. African.

  6. I find it interesting that public universities like UCLA, UVA, Cal, UNC and Michigan are clustered at the bottom of the list. I wonder if this is driven by a lack of sustained or sufficient financial aid, or if there are other similar drivers among these institutions.

    • Plain and simple. When a school does not make it difficult to enroll and the school is mandated to enroll a specific number of a race, it is all down hill from there. We are seeing this more and more. Forced racial diversity is killing our education system. What happened to studying your back side off to do well in life. Now because of your race, you can be admitted into the school of your choice. Terrible outcomes in the future for those who actually work hard. And we ask ourselves why!?!?! There are studies on diversity and the illusion that it is more beneficial. Studies have actually proven that races are more successful when they are confined to their own race. It’s science. We are trying to prove science wrong. How’s that working out?

  7. I dont think this is that bad actually. The 11 or more difference is a bit problematic, but the remainder are nearly equal considering how unleveled the playing field is at the start. Of course we desire 100% for both races, but the privilege of Whiteness gives White students the upper-hand. Thankfully, Black people are not too far behind. These stats can be easily leveled, its only a matter of time and perseverance on Black population’s part. I have a minority student who aspires to be president. Her standards are higher than what they would have been if she were born many years ago. Trust that these rates are comparably very good and will get even better soon enough!

  8. We should eliminate all racial statistics. Let’s enforce equality by eliminating segregation statistically. With no segregation we can then hold individuals accountable rather than a skin color. As long as there is a way to point fingers, we will continue to have these conversations. This is all irrelevant. If Sally doesn’t graduate, it is Sally’s fault. Notice how I didn’t say that Sally was white or black…

  9. The white population is mad because black people are naturally smarter and more intelligent than us!

    The comments say so

    We thought black people were stupid when actually we are the stupid ones. They were forced into poverty and given inadequate health care and education. We were privileged into quality healthcare, better education, and better job opportunitites.

    We steal from them too! Have been since long ago. Everything started with Africa!

  10. First, lets see the overall enrollment from freshman to senior years, then figure out how many minorities dropped out, then lets not compare apples to oranges in course work. I want to see the majors these kids are taking. You are not going to convince me that Liberal Studies is as difficult at Physics, Science, Engineering…is this another black-washng or afrocentrism article leaving out the most prudent information

  11. The race issue cannot be ignored as long as there are secret discriminations against black minorities. Studying is also about dilligent hard work and obedience. Maybe someone who did not attend college could not afford it economically or he she could not accept rules at college. The reasons are multiple. Education and especially higher education is very important to any black and white because of the democratic system. Education is also expensive. This system of constitution of the United States only works with educated population. Blacks were discriminated in history and must be integrated now and today by maybe themselves or more help of others inside the system. If a real equal society is the future then black people will need more help in order to succeed in colleges higher education universities and society otherwise the elite will stay like now more white guys than black guys. Equality and melting pot could otherwise be something of the future.

  12. 1. Elite schools have high graduation rates overall because they matriculate students of high ability, who who have also maximized their preparation. There is nothing surprising here.
    2. Elite schools skim elite preferred minority students with racial preferences, reaching down a little farther down into the pool than they do for the white/asian pool, so naturally graduation rates for minorities at second tier institutions suffer due to a relative lack of top minority students. This effect flows down from each tier to the next, with progressively wider disparities at the lower tiers.
    4. I suspect that Caucasian students without connections (do these still matter?) who are not quite the top elite are more likely to forego even applying to top schools since they know they will not have much chance of matriculating, even though they are fully capable of graduating
    5. I think seeing acceptance rates for race stratified by SAT/ACT scores and GPA would be fascinating. Perhaps someone has, or can, generate an online program where one enters University name, GPA, and SAT/ACT score, and gets an output of acceptance probability by race. I’ve seen such table for aggregate medical school admissions, but not for undergraduate admissions, or for individual schools.

  13. I would like to see a connection, perhaps a causation, between ethnicity and socioeconomic background.. Perhaps also parental and sibling academic achievement. What are the grad rates of blacks of varying backgrounds; what are the grad rates of blacks compared to whites of the same backgrounds?

  14. It would be interesting to see if a study done by the Journal of Whites in Higher Education shows the same results.
    Oops! There is no JWHE. Of course, since “there are no racial differences”, there is no need for such a “racist” journal.

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