Tracking Graduation Rates at HBCUs
Filed in Features on January 5, 2012
JBHE has compiled a listing of Black student graduation rates at a large group of the nation’s historically Black colleges and universities. The graduation rates shown here are four-year averages for Black students who entered a particular college or university from 2001 to 2004 and earned their degree at the same institution within six years.
The highest Black student graduation rate at the HBCUs is at Spelman College in Atlanta. There, 79 percent of entering students graduate from Spelman within six years. This rate is higher than the Black student graduation rate at many of the nation’s highest-ranked colleges and universities. The Black student graduation at Spelman College is 15 percentage points higher than at any other HBCU in our survey.
The Black student graduation rate at Howard University is 64 percent. This ranks Howard second among the HBCUs in our survey. Morehouse College in Atlanta ranks third with a Black student graduation rate of 61 percent.
The only other HBCU in our survey with a Black student graduation rate of more than 50 percent is Hampton University in Virginia. There, 54 percent of entering Black students earn a degree at Hampton within six years.
At nearly half the HBCUs in our survey, the Black student graduation rate is 33 percent or lower. At these institutions, less than one third of all entering African American students earned a bachelor’s degree within six years. There are six HBCUs in our survey where less than one in five entering Black students earn a bachelor’s degree within six years.
The lowest Black student graduation rate is at the University of the District of Columbia. There, only 10 percent of entering students earn their degree at UDC within six years. At Texas Southern University in Houston, the Black student graduation rate is 11 percent.
Even more discouraging is the recent trend in graduation rates at historically Black colleges and universities. Of the 37 HBCUs in our survey, 21 have shown a decline in their Black student graduation rate over the past five years. Only 15 HBCUs have shown an improvement. The Black student graduation rate at Florida A&M University is the same as it was five years ago but is significantly less than was the case a decade ago.
It must be noted that the downward trend in Black student graduation rates at HBCUs has occurred during a period of economic difficulty. Many publicly operated HBCUs have seen a decline in state appropriations and cutbacks in state financial aid for college students. Private HBCUs have also faced cutbacks and difficulty in fundraising. This undoubtedly is reflected in lower student graduation rates. Prior research has shown that the major reason that Black students drop out of college is money. Thus, cuts in financial aid programs at HBCUs undoubtedly have contributed significantly to the downward trend in Black student graduation rates at these schools.
There are some bright spots. The graduation rate for Black students at Savannah State University in Georgia has increased by 11 percentage points since 2006. At Morehouse College, Howard University, Livingstone College. Fort Valley State University, and LeMoyne-Owen College, the Black student graduation rate improved by at least 6 percentage points over the past five years.