Report Finds Race Gap in College Grad Rates

“Too often when colleges think about higher education opportunities for minority students, they end at admissions”

By Lucia Graves

A report this week from Education Sector, an independent think tank, finds that many colleges are graduating their black students at rates that are significantly lower than those of their white students. The report also shows that some colleges that have worked to close the gap have been able to boost their graduation rate for black students—in some cases, high enough to surpass that of white students.

Some of the largest gaps between black and white graduation rates were found at smaller private institutions. Catholic University in the District of Columbia, St. Thomas University in Florida, and the College of Mount St. Joseph in Ohio, for example, each had differences of more than 40 percentage points between black and white students. But large public universities struggle, too. The University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Indiana University-Bloomington, and the University of Colorado-Boulder have gaps of about 20 percent in the graduation rates of their black students and their white students.”Too often when colleges think about higher education opportunities for minority students, they end at admissions,” says Kevin Carey, author of the report and the research and policy manager at Education Sector. “They think if they let students in, that’s an opportunity. But opportunity without support is not actually opportunity.”

Fewer than half of the black students who enroll in college graduate from four-year institutions within six years, according to the report, called “Graduation Rate Watch: Making Minority Student Success a Priority.” Nationally, the average six-year graduation rate for all students is 57 percent. In 2000, of the roughly 120,000 black students attending four-year institutions as full-time freshmen, half were enrolled in an institution that graduated under 40 percent of its black students and 1 in 10 attended an institution with a black graduation rate below 20 percent.