A new study by The Education Trust — an organization that advocates for the academic achievement of underrepresented students — reveals that graduation rates for African American students fall far behind those of their peers of all races and ethnicities.
The study included 676 traditional private and public nonprofit colleges and universities nationwide that enroll 60 percent of all first-time, full-time African American students. At these institutions, black students had the lowest graduation rates of any ethnic group, with just 40.9 percent completing a degree within six years. Native American students fared about the same, with 41 percent graduating within the same time frame, while Asian American and Pacific Islander students had the highest rates of degree completion at 70.6 percent. The graduation rate for white students was 63.2 percent.
While the college experience for African Americans can vary widely, the study’s authors say many of these students may face the same “unique combination of financial, academic, and social challenges” that hinder academic success.
The study recommends three solutions for raising graduation rates for African American students nationwide: closing the graduation gap at individual schools, increasing the number of those who attend selective institutions, and improving overall graduation rates at schools where these students are most likely to attend.
The study highlights 18 schools that have achieved graduation rates for black students that equal or exceed that of white students, as well as 21 institutions whose completion gap between the two groups is exceedingly large. Authors of the study say these findings indicate that the success of African American students stems from a commitment on the part of institutional leaders.
The study also includes brief analyses of graduation rates for students of color at historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and for-profit institutions. While degree completion rates at HBCUs were low, African American students at HBCUs were still more likely to reach graduation than their peers at traditional colleges, according to the study. Conversely, the graduation rate for African Americans at for-profit schools is only half that of white students — a gap far wider than the national average.