New Report Confirms the Large Racial Gap in College Completion Rates

A new report from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center examines the racial gap in degree attainments at U.S. colleges and universities. Nationwide, 62.4 percent of all students who entered a four-year college in the fall of 2010 had earned a bachelor’s degree by 2016.

However, there were significant differences by race. More than two thirds of White students, 67.2 percent, earned their degree within six years. This was more than 21 percentage points higher than the degree completion rate for African Americans, which stood at 45.9 percent. For African American men, the rate was even lower at 40.0 percent.

For students entering a two-year college in 2010, only 25.8 percent of Black students earned an associate’s degree or certificate over the ensuring six years. For Whites, the figure was 45.1 percent.

An interesting statistic found in the report is that the college complete rate shrinks significantly for nontraditional students who entered college at an older age. For students ages 25 or older who entered college in 2010, the Black-White college completion rate gap was 12.9 percentage points. This is almost half the racial gap that existed for traditional age students.

The full report, Completing College: A National View of Student Attainment Rates by Race and Ethnicity – Fall 2010 Cohort, may be downloaded here.

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  1. The completion rate data provided by this report is not surprising. The issues surrounding low graduation percentages have persisted for decades. Colleges and universities must do a better job of providing seamless programs and strategies to increase the persistence and completion rates of African Americans and other minority groups. Many institutions continue to operate in silos and the various departments and offices (both academic and nonacademic) do not engage in conversations that could facilitate unified efforts to address the issues that prevent certain student cohorts from completing their degrees. If this is not done, attainment rates of African Americans and other minority groups will continue to lag behind.

    • Banning affirmative action can be the first step. Lowering the admission standard for certain groups has very apparant results like what’s published here. It results in certain individuals entering mismatched institutions who would have otherwise thrived in appropriate colleges.

  2. Can we drill down deeper into the data to discover those factors that may contribute to the successful African Americans and Latinos who complete their degrees? Age and gender distinctions are highlighted here, but it would be helpful to merge this data with that of the High School Benchmarks results that considered low-high income schools and low-high minority schools in the access to and completion of college. I would similarly be interested in the native-immigrant distinction as factors in students’ success. Policy implications cannot be limited to institutional supports for students once enrolled. We must address real readiness issues for all students.

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