New Census Data Shows a Large Racial Gap in Attrition Rates in College Enrollments

New data from the U.S. Census Bureau offers detailed data on college enrollments by racial and ethnic group and by the specific year of enrollment.

In October 2017, there were 2,812,000 African Americans enrolled in postsecondary education. Nearly 800,000 of these students were enrolled in two-year colleges.

There were 719,000 African American first-year students in all undergraduate institutions, 664,000 African Americans in their second year, 608,000 in their third year and 324,000 African Americans in their fourth year of college. Thus the number of Black students in their fourth year of college was only 45 percent of the number of Black students in their first-year. In contrast the number of non-Hispanic White students in their fourth year of college was 70.5 percent of the number of non-Hispanic White first-year students.

The data also showed that in October 2017, there were 200,000 African Americans in their first-year of graduate education and 298,000 African American students in their second or further year of graduate school. Thus, the number of African Americans in their second or subsequent years of graduate school was 49 percent higher than the number of African Americans in their first year of graduate school. For non-Hispanic Whites, the number of students in their second or subsequent years of graduate school was nearly double the number of first-year graduate students.

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  1. While a number of factors contribute to the number of 4th-year college attendees being less than 50% of the number of 1st-years — inadequate preparation, culture shock, finances, familial expectations, to name a few — those factors are exponentially magnified in graduate and professional programs, where the mentoring and support, ironically, is less — not greater — than that available in undergraduate life.One can see a correlation between lower grad program success and the racial gap in faculty posts. Grad students are apprentices to the guild. It appears that masters in the guild have minimal interest in preparing their future competition/replacements. Beyond adjunct, visiting or assistant status, turnover in faculty rosters is nearly as rare as hen’s teeth. As is true with any jammed highway, one cannot advance until the vehicle ahead moves on.

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