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 2003 to 2006 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 59 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, 56 percent of entering Black students earn a degree at Hampton within six years.
At 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 and Texas Southern University. At these two HBCUs, only 11 percent of entering students earn their degree within six years.
Even more discouraging is the recent trend in graduation rates at historically Black colleges and universities. Of the 36 HBCUs where we compare current and historical data, 22 have shown a decline in their Black student graduation rate over the past five years. Only 12 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. The graduation rate at Texas Southern University also remained the same at a low 11 percent.
It must be noted that the downward trend in Black student graduation rates at HBCUs has occurred during a period of extreme 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 Virginia Union University in Richmond has increased by 25 percentage points since 2008. At Fort Valley State University in Georgia, the Black student graduation rate improved by 11 percentage points over the past five years. Alabama A&M University, Jackson State University and LeMoyne-Owen College has shown improvements of at least six percentage points.