A new study by researchers at New York University, Florida State University, and Southern Methodist University finds that more than 60 percent of the racial gap in college completion rates may be attributed to factors that occur before college. Therefore, in many cases, colleges and universities have their hands tied in efforts to reduce the racial gap.
Stella M. Flores, associate professor of higher education at New York University and the study’s lead author, said that “our findings demonstrate that these disparities can often be traced back to high school, suggesting that colleges and universities are not solely responsible for the racial gap in graduation rates.”
The researchers analyzed data from kindergarten through college completion for all public school students in one of the nation’s largest and most diverse states: Texas. They focused on one cohort of students who graduated from high school in 2002, entered a four-year institution that fall, and graduated college within six years by 2008. As expected, six-year college completion rates varied by race: 65.5 percent for White students and 43.6 percent for Black students.
Furthermore, the authors found that pre-college characteristics – a combination of individual, academic, and high school context factors – contributed upward of 61 percent of the total variance for Black students as compared with their White counterparts.
The study, “The Racial College Completion Gap: Evidence From Texas,” was published on the website of the Journal of Higher Education. Co-authors are Toby J. park of Florida State University and Dominique J. Baker of Southern Methodist University. The article may be accessed here.