Graduation Rates on the Rise, But the Racial Gap Widens

Nationwide, college graduation rates have increased. But there remains a huge racial gap between the college graduation rates of Blacks and Whites. (See earlier JBHE post.)

Rising_Tide_II_cover-600x777A new study from The Education Trust examined graduation rates at 232 state-operated colleges and universities nationwide that have improved their performance over the past 10 years. The good news in the report is that Black student graduation rates increased at 70 percent of the 232 schools studied. However, the results showed that on average, graduation rates for White students at these schools improved 5.6 percentage points over the past decade. But Black student graduation rates increased by just 4.4 percentage points. Therefore, despite overall improvement, the racial gap in college graduation rates actually widened over the past decade at these schools.

The study also identified 52 public colleges and universities that increased the Black student graduation rate by at least 9 percentage points and also reduced the racial gap in college graduation rates. For example, the University at Buffalo of the State University of New York increased its Black student graduation rate from 43.4 percent in 2003 to 63.5 percent in 2013, an increase of more than 20 percentage points. During the period, the racial gap in graduation rates was reduced from 15.4 percentage points to 8.8 percentage points.

In contrast, the report found 27 public colleges or universities that saw a drop in the Black student graduation rate of at least 8 percentage points and a widening of the racial gap in graduation rates. In one example, in 2003, the graduation rate for Black students at the University of Missouri-Kansas City was actually higher than the rate for White students. But the Black student graduation rate dropped by 12 percentage points over the next decade. Now the White student graduation rate is 22.7 percentage points higher than the rate for Black students.

Appendix tables list the graduation rate trends at all the schools in the study. There are also discussions of methods used by universities that have been successful in boosting overall graduation rates and reducing the racial gap.

The full report, Rising Tide II: Do Black Students Benefit as Grad Rates Increase?, may be downloaded by clicking here.

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