New data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that in October 2020, there were 2,591,000 African Americans enrolled in U.S. higher education. At that time there were 17,674,000 students of all racial and ethnic groups enrolled in higher education. Thus, African Americans made up were 14.7 percent of all enrollments.
But breaking down the data by year of enrollment, we find that there a high degree of attrition in African Americans enrollments. For example, African Americans in 2020 made up 17.5 percent of all first-year students at undergraduate colleges and universities. For students in their second year of undergraduate study, African Americans were 15. 3 percent of all enrollments. For those in their third year of undergraduate studies, African Americansn made up 15.0 percent of all enrollments. But by the fourth year of undergraduate study, African Americans were only 10.7 percent of all enrolled students.
In 2020, there were 711,000 African American first-year students. That same year, there were only 220,000 Black students in their fourth year of study.
At two-year colleges, African Americans were 16.9 percent of all entering students in 2020. But Blacks were just 15 percent of students who were enrolled in a second year of study.
So it seems clear that efforts to reduce the racial gap in college enrollments and degree attainments, must not only address initial access but must focus on retention efforts for African American students.