The Gender Gap in College Completion Rates for African Americans

A new report from the U.S. Department of Education offers data on gender differences in graduation rates by racial and ethnic groups.

The report shows that for the class that entered college in the fall of 2011, seeking bachelor’s degrees at four-year, degree-granting Title IV institutions in the United States, 39.8 percent of all African Americans earned their degrees within six years. Title IV institutions are all postsecondary educational entities that qualify for participation in federal financial aid programs.

For Whites, the figure was 64.3 percent, a huge 24.5 percentage point gap in graduation rates between Blacks and Whites. Asian Americans had an even higher graduation rate of 74.1 percent.

When we break the figures down by gender, we find that women of all races outperform men with a graduation rate of 63.0 percent, compared to 57.3 percent for men. For African Americans, women had a graduation rate of 43.9 percent, compared to 34.1 percent of Black men. This was the largest gender gap for any racial or ethnic group.

At private, not-for-profit colleges and universities, the graduation gender gap was even higher for African Americans. At these private four-year institutions, Black women had a graduation rate of 48.9 percent, compared to a rate of 37.5 percent for Black men.

The full report, Graduation Rates for Selected Cohorts, 2009–14; Outcome Measures for Cohort Year 2009–10; Student Financial Aid, Academic Year 2016–17; and Admissions in Postsecondary Institutions, Fall 2017, may be downloaded by clicking here.

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  1. The race/ethnic issue is irrelevant unless corrected for incoming students’ SAT/ACT scores. One cannot compare outcomes if the inputs are different.

    When SAT/ACT scores are considered, how does that compare to graduation rates? Same question but what is the gap, not for 6 years to graduate, but the normal 4 years?

    Is this article inferring systemic racism in academia? Why would colleges institutionally discriminate against black males but differently for black females?

  2. Graduation rates of 43.9% and 37.5% respectively for African American men and women begs the question of whether African Americans should be attending college. That’s a lot of debt to get into for nothing to show for it after 6 years. So, higher education actually hurts the majority of African Americans who seek it out, because they incur significant debt, but don’t get degrees.

  3. I can say as a minority who went to college and earned a graduate degree, there is systematic racism at all forms of education. The schools to prison pipeline is real. Even minimal achievement of minorities is in many ways more impressive and worthy of consideration than other students who have succeeded. To be able to succeed despite violence in the home, PTSD, malnurishment, lack of financial support, and a hostile school environment is astonishing. I am Native American/Black and a professor bragged about how he ran a city the developed Indian mounds. Anyway, I am surprised by the comments above. To say that iur response to achievement gaps is to encourage minorities to take other options than college is outrageous. We would not say to white students that college hurts them, why say that of minorities. In the job market, lack of education has often been an excuse not to hire minorities. To suggest that education isnt needed is a privileged way of think. For minorities education is maybe the only foot in the door of opportunity. After 600 years of slavery, 150 years of Jim Crow, Affirmative Action has only been a new tool. Most whites dont realize that slavery, Jim Crow, homestead acts, Native American genocide, etc. Was 700 years of white Affirmative action.

    • I could not have said it better. The comment above was completely insensitive and inappropriate, instead of trying to fill the gap it is suggested that African Americans just don’t try. As if that would be any better, it would further limit their chances in financial stability because an education is almost necessary everywhere. The percentages don’t account for the struggles brought on just for being African American and some of the disadvantages faced that set them up to fail before they even leave high school. The graduation rates should not make you question whether or not they should be attending colleges because clearly they are getting in but rather what is being done to ensure they are finishing.

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