Much of the editorial in JBHE deals with the progress of Black students at the nation’s highest-ranked colleges and universities. But it is always important to keep in mind that large state-operated universities enroll as much as 75 percent of all African-Americans who are participating in higher education in this country. Tens of thousands of Black students are enrolled at the nation’s flagship state universities, generally the premier public institutions in a given state.
Every year since JBHE has tracked graduation rates for Black students, the University of Virginia has had the highest graduation rate for African Americans. This year is no exception. The Black student graduation rate of 85 percent at the University of Virginia is the highest of any of the nation’s flagship state universities. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is second, with a Black student graduation rate of 76 percent. The University of Georgia has a Black student graduation rate of 75 percent. This is up from 66 percent just four years ago. Other flagship state universities with a Black student graduation rate at or above 70 percent are the University of Florida, the University of Washington, the University of Michigan, Penn State, and the University of California at Berkeley. All told, there are eight flagship state universities with Black student graduation rates above 70 percent, double the number from four years ago.
It is also useful to note the racial gap in graduation rates at flagship state universities. At the University of Hawaii, the Black student graduation rate is a low 42 percent. But is actually higher than the rate for White students. At all other 49 flagship state universities, White students graduate at a rate higher than Black students.
At the University of South Carolina, the Black student graduation rate of 65 percent is only two percentage points below the rate for White students. At the University of Georgia, the racial gap is five percentage points. At 38 flagship state universities, the racial gap in graduation rates is more than 10 percentage points.
The largest racial gap is at the University of Idaho. There, the Black student graduation rate of 28 percent is 29 percentage points below the rate for White students. Since very few Black students are enrolled in higher education in Idaho, more significant are the large racial gaps in graduation rates at flagship state universities in Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana, Delaware, Ohio, Connecticut, Michigan, Kentucky, Pennsylvania and California, all state universities with large numbers of Black students. The flagship universities in these states all have a racial gap in graduation rates of more than 15 percentage points.