The Stubborn Racial Gap in Degree Attainment Rates in the United States

A new report from the U.S. Department of Education shows racial gaps in persistence rates and degree attainments for students who entered college in the 2011-12 academic years.

The data shows that for all students who entered postsecondary education that year, 10.9 percent earned an associate’s degree and 36.8 percent earned a bachelor’s degree by the spring of 2017. For Black students who entered postsecondary education in the 2011-12 academic year, 9.5 percent earned an associate’s degree and 22.7 percent were awarded a bachelor’s degree. For Whites, 11 percent earned an associate’s degree and 43.4 percent earned a bachelor’s degree.

For students who entered a four-year college in the 2011-12 academic year, 38.9 percent of Blacks had been awarded a bachelor’s degree by 2017. For Whites the figure was 64.8 percent.

If we look at only those students who enrolled at two-year colleges in the 2011-12 academic year, only 6.7 percent of Blacks went on to earn a bachelor’s degree within six years. For Whites who initially enrolled at a two-year college, 15.1 percent went on to earn a bachelor’s degree by 2017.

For those entering Black students in the 2011-12 academic year, 15.2 percent were still enrolled in higher education in 2017 but had not earned a degree. The corresponding figures for Whites was 10.2 percent.

The full report, Persistence, Retention, and Attainment of 2011–12 First-Time Beginning Postsecondary Students as of Spring 2017, can be downloaded here.

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