Tracking Black Student Graduation Rates at HBCUs

graduation_cap_and_diploma-2091JBHE has compiled a listing of Black student graduation rates at a large group of the nation’s historically Black colleges and universities. The graduation rate is determined by determining what percentage of students who enter a particular institution received their bachelor’s degree within six years at the same college or university.

The highest Black student graduation rate at the HBCUs inlcuded in our survey is at Spelman College in Atlanta. There, 69 percent of entering students graduate from Spelman within six years.

The Black student graduation rate at Howard University is 65 percent. This ranks Howard second among the HBCUs in our survey. Hampton University in Virginia ranks third with a Black student graduation rate of 59 percent.

In fourth place is Morehouse College in Atlanta. There, 55 percent of entering Black students earn a degree at Morehouse within six years. The only other HBCUs in our survey with a Black student graduation rate of more than 50 percent is Fisk University in Nashville. Fisk has a Black student graduation rate of 52 percent.

At half the HBCUs in our survey, the Black student graduation rate is 34 percent or lower. There are seven HBCUs in our survey where less than one in five entering Black students earn a bachelor’s degree within six years.

The lowest Black student graduation rate is at Texas Southern University. There, only 12 percent of entering students earn their degree within six years.

In most cases the graduation rates shown here are four-year averages for Black students who entered a particular college or university from 2004 to 2007 and earned their degree at the same institution within six years.


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      • For all of the neoliberal and multiculturalists situated at either HBCUs or HWCUs, you should at least include the percentage of White students who don’t graduate from college within the 4 year or 6 year period. In fact, the average graduation rate for all colleges is near a staggering 55 percent. In other words, I don’t hear anyone verbalizing how White students are not performing academically and somehow manage to use Black students college graduation rates is due to some intellectual weakness. My point, is that if you consider yourself as belonging to the Black community, you should stop using Black college students as the standard bearer for low academic performance. Particularly when the data shows otherwise.

        • I’m really interested in understanding the reasons for the large percentage of students dropping out without a degree. Not all left due to academic reasons – and for those that did, was there something that could’ve been done to keep them in school? We really need the unique gifts and talents that each of these students possess, especially with what’s going on in and to our communities nationwide. They won’t all end up working for or in black communities, of course, but a significant number of them just might. I believe that far more students could graduate from HBCUs and I am determined to do my part to make that happen.

        • Michael….The media and most people are always talking about White students and how they are performing in college. If you don’t hear it, it’s because you are not listening.

    • In 1993 the Black student grade rate at the University of Virginia was 91% and this was the highest of any of the Public State Institutions.
      The University of Virginia still has a graduation rate today for Black students between 89% and 90%. The Editor might want to show the present Black graduate rates for the top five public institutions of higher learning vs. the top five private institutions of higher learning.
      What is Virginia doing with their Black students once they hit the campus of the University of Virginia differently than the HBCUs? Is Virginia more selective in who they admit into said first year classes? Is the University of Virginia working in concert with various high schools to increase the admissions of high potential Black high school Juniors and Seniors?
      One also has to be cognizant that the University of Virginia Black student admittance rate was higher in 1993 than it is today. What would account for this decrease in the Black student admittance rate at Virginia?
      What is the impact of the University of Virginia’s Peer Advisory Program on its consistently high Black graduation rate? What is the present difference between Virginia’s Black grad rate within the six year time frame and the white grad rate for the same period of time?
      What is the difference between the Asian-American/Asian graduate rates with Black and White student rates for the University of Virginia.?

      Most of the HBCU student admission’s are academically ill prepared for the rigors of succeeding in college because of systemic poor schooling in primary schools coupled with a gross of lack of Pre-School and intense Early Child Educational Development .
      Just analyze the number of HBCU students who have to take remedial English courses and reading Lab courses in their first year of college to that of the dominate culture students. HBCUs have a tremendous burden on them to educate the students under their charge to succeed when the vast majority of the students have been denied the benefits of a high quality of education in grades 1-12. Whereby most HBCU Frosh students come into said institutions with terribly deficient academic preparation to succeed in college.
      Finances, health and poor schooling in primary grades also effect the Black graduate rates at the HBCU’s. The income/wealth gap has significantly increased since 1985 relative to Black and white rates and the financial impact of great recession from 2007, 2009 has placed more Blacks in poverty an increased in home foreclosures and significant decline in Black home-ownership. All of the previous mentioned statements adversely impacts Black family fiances and the ability to take out costly student loans to pay for said education.
      You might to read the Brandeis Report of 2010 on the increase in Income/Wealth Gap between Black and Whites since 1985.

      • I must agree, a lot of the issues related to African American graduation rates can be traced back to early education. African American boys are suspended from school at a higher rate than other nationalities. “In school, Black males are more likely to be labeled with behavior problems and as less intelligent even while they are still very young” (Hilliard, 1991). “They are more likely to be excluded from rigorous classes and prevented from accessing educational opportunities that might otherwise support and encourage them (Oakes, 1985, p. 53).

        • Re: Michelle Smart,

          Your comment is partially true because you somehow fail to included the role that racial microaggressions factor in Black students academic success at all levels. In fact, it’s downright amazing that in lieu of all of the other comments, all of these so-called educated Blacks have all failed to publicly mention racism and its pivotal role in educational outcomes.

          • When you have van guard organizations like the NAACP who is anti school choice and will threaten to call a white state legislature a “racist” for offering to support such a cause I ask who is the “Racist”. There is a underlying reason for the dismal performance of Black and black African-American students at these HBCU’s that is never addressed as it should be.

          • I dream of a day when the blame for the failure of education within the black community is correctly targeted on the black community and not on some fictitious “micro-aggression” or other faux avenues of “racism”.

      • 1. As a former AP student & HBCU grad (my alma mater is in the top 10 on this list) I think we have to keep things in perspective, if the national graduation rate for African American students at all institutions is 40.8 percent & we have 23 HBCU’s on this list that hold rates at 40% or higher, that is a fete to be commended not devalued.

        2. The University of VA is great public university (I know grads personally) but it is an anomaly in so many ways towards African American students graduation, attraction & retention (i.e. Oberlin College in Ohio is another good example) my point is that the average African American student is underperforming their White piers on all levels in secondary education, even Black students from educated families. The average Black student is not at an elite public or private school, nor is the average White college students, the report released by the Georgetown Public Policy Institute “Separate & Unequal”, breaks down the facts of where academically PREPARED students are enrolled & where they are not enrolled due to issues of racism, lack of recruitment, retention issues etc…

        3. The issue of African American students graduating college is more pressing at traditionally white colleges because 89% of African Americans students who are in college are attending PWI’s they ARE NOT at HBCU’s. Black students are NOT attending Black colleges, the HBCU’s that are thriving are the exceptions not the rules! The PWI’s have the financial resources & the numbers of students, but their graduation rates are not surpassing the Black students at Black colleges. (which have less resources) lets discuss the reason why the PWI’s, which have the Black students, why aren’t they graduating Black students in a more efficient fashion ? If I was parent based upon numbers it looks like I would be guaranteed to see my child graduate from an HBCU in 6 years before I see them graduate from a PWI. Isn’t that ironic!?!

    • The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education reported approximately five years ago that the low retention rate of African American males in higher education is due to: 1) finances, 2) inability to perform academically,and 3) lack of moral support.

    • Also remember that these numbers include ALL entering freshmen and any who transfer to another school and graduate count against the graduation rate.

  1. Finances, Finances, Finances.

    If you run out of money at the end of your junior year, middle of you senior, you have to drop out.

    Once many drop out, getting back is a labor.

    With the “new”, more restrictive Federal rules on finacial aid, it just may get worse . . .

  2. Re: Ronald B. Saunders;

    It’s quite apparent you’re making an imbalanced and inaccurate comparison in the academic success rate between the University of Virginia (UVA) and HBCUs. In fact, the academic socialization and intellectual exposure for the majority of Black students matriculating at UVA are different compared to many who matriculate at HBCUs. However, that doesn’t imply one is essentially better only different and not correlated to one’s intellectual capacity. You make it appear as if UVA is a higher education panacea for Black students in a current context. Nothing could be further from the truth because Black students endure both implicit and explicit racism every day at UVA in the classroom, accessing the fitness facilities, the library, residential life, and within the Charlottesville area. For those who disagree, I would suggest that you speak with Black students who belong to the Black Student Alliance and the Beta Bridge incident. Regarding the graduate rates between Asian American and Black and White students reads as follows for AY 2013(6-year rate):” 82.8 % for Black American; 94 % for Asian American; 92.9 % for Latino(a) American; and 93.8 % for White American”(

    Your assessment of HBCU students and their academic performance has nothing to do with their intellectual ability or capability. In fact, it’s more related to a reinvestment in social capital (e.g., local, state, and federal) in areas that have been historically and currently neglected for various reasons. For example, during the Cold War Era, all public schools emphasized mathematics, science, and foreign languages. Unfortunately, when the Cold War Era ended (due to economics), the entire paradigm for public education in the US changed. Now in 2014, the emphasis in the STEM fields is exactly the same and now Blacks are playing another educational catch up game. In other words, the emphasis in the STEM fields didn’t stop for other groups as compared to Blacks. The decline in Black homeownership is not due Blacks not being able to “afford” or keep their mortgages current. In fact, it is due to scrupulous lending practices by lenders from Bank of America, Country Wide, BBT, Wells Fargo, PNC, Chase, Citi Bank, Sun Trust, Capital One, and TD Bank, etc. in which all of these financial institutions had to pay hundreds of millions on fines.

    If more Black people expended more time, energy, fiscal resources, and administrative decision making on improving HBCUs, their overall positionality would be significantly better. Instead of contextualizing about HBCUs and the type of students they admit, you should minimally discuss the structural and institutional issues why these disparities continue to exist. If not, you’re merely perpetuating negative stereotypes about HBCUs along with portraying HWCUs as if they’re perfect for Black students(nothing could be further from the truth).

    • Michael:Sorry for the delayed response. First of all my good brother you should fully identify who you are. You know that my name is Ronald B. Saunders and I am not hiding behind any other name.
      You seem like you have a lot of information about the University of Virginia are you a student, administrator, faculty, staff member, alumni, parent of a student at the University of Virginia?
      Indeed many of your responses to my comments were positive and noteworthy in that I believe they were well-meaning, courageous, non politically motivated, nor orchestrated by the statu quo. I agree with some of your comments but vehemently disagree with others.
      Apparently you didn’t read carefully or grasp what I stated about students who are admitted to the University of Virginia in the context of HBCU admits.
      No where in my comment did I imply or infer anything about the intellectual capacity of HBCU students or the University of Virginia Black students. Therefore your criticism there is unjust and without foundation. Further I never mentioned or implied that UVa was a panacea for Black students. Michael,those are your outrageous statements!
      The University of Virginia has a consistent high Black graduate rate first and foremost because of caring involved parents in which many are the graduates of HBCU’s. Virginia also has an excellent Peer Advisory Program which has been recognized nationally for affording outstanding student academic support services for all Black students which impacts positive outcomes and high graduation rates.

      You stated that Black students at the University of Virginia” endure implicit and explicit racism every day at UVA in the classrooms, accessing the fitness facilities, the library, residential life and in the Charlottesville area.” If this were true then the Black student graduate rates at the University of Virginia are that more super extraordinary because they accomplished said in a hostile racial environment.
      More importantly if you know of ( any) cases of disparate treatment allegedly received by Black students at Virginia or any other institution then you have an obligation to stand-up and report those incidents and take collective action to remedy those individual incidents and systemic barriers. What advice did you give to the Black students at Virginia or Michigan or any other dominate culture institution?on acts of racial intolerance and reported acts of discrimination?

      The alleged individual and institutional racism at the University of Virginia will not be eradicated or combated by osmosis it will take comprehensive concerted action on part of all individuals working in concert to eliminate those barriers.
      Institutional and individual racism in the dominate culture was not eliminated by Brown 1 or II and we still have a pattern and practice of unequal educational opportunities as it relates to people of African descent, Latino’s and First Americans.
      White racism in white institutions must be eradicated by white people and not just Black folks. In fact white racism is primarily a white responsibility
      For the record the great Minister Louis Farrakhan’s grandson is a graduate of the University of Virginia. Now do you think Farrakhan’s family would have sent their son into a hostile racial environment? As long you as you attempt to integrate with dominate culture institutions there is going to be deep resistance, resentment, defiance,discrimination, hostility and overt and covert acts to show you are not wanted. That’s America and its been that way since 1619 in English America.
      Furthermore you made an error and stated that Virginia’s Black graduation rate was 82.% but it is 84% as identified correctly in the Journal.

      Again apparently you didn’t grasp my comments about fore-closures. I never said anything about Blacks not affording homes. Read to comprehend!

      I stated that many of the HBCU students admits come from academically deficient backgrounds and many are not prepared for the rigors of college work.
      The HBCU’s do an outstanding and extraordinary job of educating the students under their charge who come from academically deficient backgrounds even though many of the HBCU’s are underfunded by the state and federal government.
      I don’t think it would be a crime for the HBCU’s to model a Peer Advisory Program like the one used at Virginia which has been so successful in helping students with a multitude of issues. Remember Sylvia Terry longtime Director of Virginia’s Peer Advisory Program who is retired from UVa is a graduate of an HBCU.

      Every HBCU should have an active operational Peer Advisory Program and Parents Program in place at their institutions which could help improve the graduate rates of their students. I would like to see the HBCU’s have Alumni Mentoring Programs for all of the HBCU’s students under their charge, particularly on the undergrad level.

      • Beautifully and thoughtfully stated.

        Where schools are performing in delivering successful outcomes, we should acknowledge and celebrate and learn from their success. Which doesn’t suggest that they are perfect or held above informed criticism.

        Where schools are underperforming relative to our expectations, we should engage, critique, and support them, while also acknowledging specific circumstances and unique challenges that they face.

        In no instance do I believe, nor has anyone suggested, that either the fault or the credit lies in the racial identity of the students. The causes of racial disparities in educational outcomes are societal and historic; and the solutions will prove to be multifaceted.

  3. We have a lot of work to do with HBCU’s if HBCU grads were to work with an HBCU student teaching that student helping with funds and any other thing that may help that student, the college should have programs that enrich the student education outlook . As leaders of HBCU’s we need to do more to help our students and our schools

    • In a conversation with a colleague, we discussed the fact that it is impossible to follow-up on students who leave an institution of higher education. Is it possible that the majority of these students are transferring to other institutions of higher education and graduating?

  4. First, Thanks to The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education for posting this report. Yes, knowledge is truly power! This report speaks truth to power. As a proud 1986 graduate of HBCU Morris College (Sumter, SC), I was saddened and shocked to read the report about dismal and alarming HBCU Graduation rates. I am challenging ALL HBCU attendees, graduates and alumni to assist our beloved HBCU recommit our efforts to assist ALL HBCUs in improving on their graduation rates. In 2014 as well as in the past and future, obtaining a quality college education is paramount to ensure that our children and our children children are prepared, educated and trained to positively contribute to society, support themselves financially and their families. My prayer is that Education forever be essential to success knowing that a “mind is terrible thing to waste”.

  5. This data is the latest, but is not current. It was based off the August 2013 data. The 2014 graduation rates are not on IPEDS yet, so this may change.

    • “In most cases the graduation rates shown here are four-year averages for Black students who entered a particular college or university from 2004 to 2007 and earned their degree at the same institution within six years.”

  6. The intent, purpose and mission of the HBCU’s is in many respects different than the PWI’s when it comes to the minority student. Many PWI’s control admission for Black Students through high admission standards. This inherently will almost ensure a high success rate. That is in direct contrast with the mission and purpose of the HBCU’s. HBCU’s are more sensitive to the socio-economical conditions that many black students are faced with and seek to mitigate those challenges. Therefore, it is a false equivalency to compare graduation rates to PWI’s because the playing fields are not equal. I have heard some say that the academic standards at HBCU’s do not measure up to PWI’s. Well, these graduation rates should put that to rest and suggests otherwise. I know there are other factors that contribute to the low graduation rates such as affordability. HBCU’s should be measured by the rate of increase in it’s graduation rates year-to-year to determine how effective are their current procedures and practices to educate our black youths. Much work to be done.

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