The Persisting Racial Gap in College Student Graduation Rates

The U.S. Department of Education has released new data on nationwide graduation rates for students who entered college in the fall of 2001 and who earned their degrees within six years.

Nationwide, 40.5 percent of all black students matriculating in 2001 earned a degree at the same institution within six years. For whites, the rate was 59.4 percent.

The graduation rate for black students at private colleges and universities was slightly higher at 45 percent. But for the private institutions, the racial gap was actually wider at 21.6 percentage points.

The new data also shows a significant gender gap in African-American college graduation rates. At private colleges and universities nationwide, nearly half of all black women earn their degrees within six years compared to 38.6 percent of black men. At state-operated colleges and universities, the graduation rate for black women is 43.1 percent. For black men, only 31.4 percent graduate within six years.


“I hope Obama is a progressive Lincoln. I aspire to be the Frederick Douglass to put pressure on him.”

Cornel West, Class of 1943 Professor of Religion at Princeton University, in Rolling Stone, April 2, 2009


The Colleges Where the Races Intermingle and Where They Stay Apart

The Princeton Review has released its annual ranking of the selective colleges and universities where there is a great deal of interaction between the races on campus. There is also a ranking for those schools where self-imposed racial segregation is the norm and there is little socialization between black and white students.

Pitzer College in California was rated as the college where the races are most likely to interact. Rice University, an institution at which the original charter stipulated that only white students could enroll, is now rated by The Princeton Review as the university with the second-most racial interaction.

Trinity College in Connecticut is named as the institution where there is the least interaction among the races. Here are the top 10 schools in each category:

Lots of Racial Interaction

Little Racial Interaction

1. Pitzer College

1. Trinity College (Connecticut)

2. Rice University

2. Miami University (Ohio)

3. Franklin W. Olin College

3. Fairfield University

4. Wesleyan College

4. University of New Hampshire

5. Baruch College-CUNY

5. Wake Forest University

6. Stanford University

6. Providence College

7. St. Mary’s College of Maryland

7. University of Richmond

8. Univ. of Alabama Birmingham

8. Syracuse University

9. Beloit College

9. Texas Christian University

10. Prescott College

10. Rollins College


Students at West Virginia University Protest Appearance by Scientific Racist

J. Philippe Rushton, professor of psychology at the University of Western Ontario, was invited to lecture on the campus of West Virginia University. Rushton is also president of the Pioneer Fund, a foundation that has funded research seeking to prove that blacks are genetically less intelligent than whites. Over the years, Rushton has conducted research which he says shows that blacks have smaller heads, smaller brains, and larger sex organs than do whites.

During a break between classes, students, faculty, and staff joined to protest the Rushton address. Protesters carried signs that read, “You call it science, we call it racism” and “Is Rosa Parks Inferior?” The protesters marched to the hall where Rushton was scheduled to give his address, chanting, “Educate, don’t discriminate.”

Rushton gave his talk as planned but did not address racial differences.


Foreign-Born Blacks Score Higher on Literacy Tests Than Foreign-Born Residents of All Races

About 14 percent of the total U.S. adult population is foreign born. Hispanics account for 52 percent of the adult foreign-born population. Blacks from Africa, the Caribbean, and Latin America make up nearly 9 percent of foreign-born adults.

New statistics released by the U.S. Department of Education show that foreign-born blacks actually score higher on literacy tests than the foreign-born population of all races. It must be noted that many foreign-born blacks are from nations such as the Bahamas, Jamaica, or Kenya where English is widely spoken.


Students and Faculty at Chicago State University Protest the Selection of the Two Finalists for President of the University

Chicago State University has an undergraduate enrollment of about 5,200 students. More than 85 percent of the student body is black.

The university’s board of trustees has named Wayne D. Watson and Carol L. Adams as the two finalists for the position of university president. Both candidates will be on campus this coming week meeting with students and faculty. Some student leaders are urging students to wear black during the campus visits to protest the selection of the two candidates.

Watson is the chancellor of the City Colleges of Chicago, a seven-campus system of community colleges with total enrollments of 115,000 students. Watson holds a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, and educational doctorate, all from Northwestern University.

Adams is secretary of the Illinois Department of Human Services, the state’s largest agency. A graduate of Fisk University, she holds a master’s degree from Boston University and a doctorate from Union Graduate School. Previously, she served as executive director of the Center for Inner-City Studies at Northeastern Illinois University.

Many students and faculty at Chicago State are unhappy with the choices. The faculty are particularly concerned about a 2005 vote of no confidence in Watson by the faculty of the Chicago community colleges. Adams has been criticized for firing an employee of her agency who had filed a sexual harassment lawsuit. Adams was appointed to her position by former governor Rod Blagojevich. Some students and faculty have stated that they would have preferred a candidate with no ties to Illinois politics.


Nearly 11 Percent of Students Admitted to Harvard This Year Are Black

Harvard University reports that it received a record 29,112 applications this year. Nearly 3,700 of all applicants were valedictorians of their high school class and more than 6,000 student applicants scored an 800 on either the reading or mathematics SAT college entrance examination. Overall, only 7 percent of all applicants were admitted, also a record low for the university.

Harvard also had a record number of black applicants this year. Harvard reports that 10.8 percent of all admitted students are African Americans. This is an increase from a year ago when 10 percent of all admitted students were black.

Typically the black student yield at Harvard is lower than the applicant pool as a whole. In 2008, 10 percent of admitted students were black but 8.4 percent of the students who actually enrolled this past fall were African Americans.



• Freida Jones was named interim director of financial aid at Fort Valley State University in Georgia. She has served as president of the Georgia Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators and was vice president of the Southern Association for Student Financial Aid Professionals.

• Lisa Montgomery was named vice president for enrollment management and student success at Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte. She was vice president for student development and enrollment management at Hostos Community College, a division of the City University of New York.

Dr. Montgomery is a graduate of the University of Arkansas. She holds a master’s degree from Florida State University and an educational doctorate from the University of Virginia.

• Cammie Dean was appointed assistant director of student development at Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, Texas. She was director of student life at Clarke College in Dubuque, Iowa.

• Jonathan Jansen was named rector and vice chancellor of the University of the Free State in Bloemfontein, South Africa. He is the first black person to hold the position. Blacks make up nearly two thirds of the student body at the university.

Jansen was a professor of education at the University of Witwatersrand and former dean of education at the University of Pretoria.

• K. Anthony Appiah, professor of philosophy at Princeton University, was named president of PEN American Center, a 3,400-member association of writers and editors. The center is dedicated to advancing literature, defending free expression, and fostering international literary fellowship.



• Bethune-Cookman University, the historically black educational institution in Daytona Beach, Florida, received a $333,000 grant from the federal government to renovate a 37,000-square-foot building which houses the university’s nursing school.

• Xavier University, the historically black educational institution in New Orleans which was devastated by floodwaters from Hurricane Katrina in 2005, received a $1.3 million grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for a project to apply waterproofing protection to the exterior walls of campus buildings.

• Harvard University received a $400,000 grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation for a survey of minority students on predominantly white college campuses. The study will seek to document factors that make these campuses welcoming or unwelcoming to black and other minority students.

Henry Louis Gates Jr., Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African-American Research at Harvard, is the principal investigator.

Black Enrollments in Graduate Professional Schools

The latest data from the U.S. Department of Education shows that slightly over 25,000 African Americans are enrolled in graduate professional schools throughout the United States. Blacks make up 7.1 percent of all students enrolled in professional schools.

The largest number of black professional school students are enrolled in law school. Data from the American Bar Association shows that 9,493 black students were enrolled in law school in 2008. Thus, about 38 percent of all blacks enrolled in professional schools are studying law. Blacks make up 6.3 percent of all law school students.

The latest data shows that there are 5,023 black students enrolled in U.S. medical schools. They make up 7.3 percent of all medical school students. Another 517 black students are enrolled in schools of osteopathic medicine. They constitute 3.9 percent of students enrolled in these schools.

There are 1,060 black students enrolled in schools of dentistry in the United States. They make up 5.7 percent of all dentistry school students.

There are 189 blacks enrolled in schools of optometry. They make up 3.5 percent of all optometry school students.


Brown University Commission Presents Self-Flagellation Steps to Deal With Its Historical Ties to Slavery

A commission established by Brown University to make recommendations on how the university should deal with the fact that the institution’s founder had ties to the Atlantic slave trade has made a series of recommendations. The commission proposes that a memorial be established on the Brown campus that acknowledges the university’s ties to slavery. The commission also recommends that the university’s history regarding slavery should be represented in the school’s curriculum and that public events, seminars, and lectures on the history of slavery in Rhode Island should be sponsored. Another proposal calls for a prize to be created recognizing research on the slave trade.


The New Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration Has an Extensive Relationship With Higher Education

Margaret A. Hamburg is President Obama’s pick to head the Food and Drug Administration. She is an expert on public health and the health threats of bioterrorism. She served as the youngest commissioner of health in the history of New York City and is widely credited with stemming an outbreak of tuberculosis that had occurred in the city during the early 1990s. In this period she taught at the medical schools of Columbia University and Cornell University.

Hamburg is a graduate of Radcliffe College and earned her medical degree at Harvard. After completing medical school, she later conducted research in neuroscience at Rockefeller University and in neuropharmacology at the National Institutes of Health.

In 1997 she was appointed by President Clinton as assistant secretary for policy and evaluation at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. When the GOP took over the federal administration, Hamburg took a position at the Nuclear Threat Initiative, a foundation dedicated to lessening the threat to public safety posed by weapons of mass destruction.

Like President Obama, Dr. Hamburg is biracial. Her father is Jewish and her mother is African American. Her father and mother are both physicians. Her mother was one of the first black students to enroll at Vassar College.

Margaret Hamburg grew up on the campus of Stanford University where both of her parents were on the faculty. Margaret Hamburg, as well as both of her parents, are fellows of the Institute of Medicine.


Howard University Board Chairman Named to Head AARP

A. Barry Rand, the chairman of the board of trustees at Howard University, was named president of AARP. The organization used to be called the American Association of Retired Persons. But the group simply uses the acronym AARP as its official name because many of its 40 million members are not retired. Rand is the first African American to head the organization.

Rand is a native of Washington, D.C. When growing up he lived a 30-second walk away from a neighborhood school. But he could not attend that school because of the color of his skin. Rand went on to earn a bachelor’s degree at American University and an MBA and a master’s degree in management science from Stanford University.

Rand spent 31 years at Xerox Corporation rising to the position of executive vice president of worldwide operations. In 1999 he left Xerox to become CEO of Avis Group Holdings, the car rental company. He later served as CEO of Equitant, an Irish management services firm which was later acquired by IBM.


3.7  Number of white Americans murdered in 2005 for every 100,000 white Americans.

21.1  Number of African Americans murdered in 2005 for every 100,000 African Americans.

source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


Oberlin Receives Donation of Historical Photographs of Jazz Legends

The Oberlin Conservatory of Music in Ohio has received the archives of photographer Frank Kuchirchuk. The collection includes more than 200 photographs of the legends of jazz who performed at Cleveland’s famed Sky Bar in the 1950s, such as Lester Young, Billie Holiday, Charlie Parker, and Dizzy Gillespie.

Kuchirchuk was a news photographer. Now 84 years old, he lives in a veterans home in Sandusky, Ohio.


Delaware State University Extends Search for New President

Delaware State University, the historically black educational institution in Dover, chose three candidates as finalists for the presidency of the university. Last August, Allen L. Sessoms stepped down as president of Delaware State University in order to become president of the University of the District of Columbia.

The three finalists who were brought to campus for extensive interviews and meetings with campus constituencies were:

Tony Allen, an executive for the global card services division of Bank of America. He is a graduate of the University of Delaware and holds a master’s degree from Baruch College and a Ph.D. in urban affairs and public policy from the University of Delaware.

Patricia Pierce Ramsey, former provost and vice president for academic affairs at Bowie State University in Maryland. Dr. Ramsey is a graduate of Norfolk State University. She holds master’s degrees from Howard University and Harvard University and a Ph.D. in biology from Georgetown University.

George W. Reid, assistant secretary for planning and academic affairs for the Maryland Higher Education Commission. Dr. Reid holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from North Carolina Central University and a Ph.D. in American history from Howard University.

After the finalists visited campus, the presidential search committee announced that none of the three candidates was the right fit for the job. Chair of the presidential search committee Wesley Perkins, a member of the university’s board of trustees, stated, “We have to make sure we make the right choice no matter how long it takes to get there.”


In Memoriam

William Asbury McMillan (1920-2009)

William A. McMillan, who served from 1967 to 1993 as president of Rust College, the historically black educational institution in Holly Springs, Mississippi, was killed from injuries suffered in an automobile accident near the college. Dr. McMillan died at the local hospital from head trauma and internal injuries. He was 89 years old.

As president of Rust College McMillan was widely credited with achieving growth and financial stability, as well as strengthening the faculty at the college.


Honors and Awards

• Barbara Jordan, the first black woman to be elected to the Texas Senate, will be honored later this month with the dedication of a statue on the campus of the University of Texas at Austin. It will be the first statue of a woman on campus grounds.

Jordan went on to serve three terms in Congress. She gave a passionate speech defending the U.S. Constitution during the impeachment hearings of Richard Nixon in 1974. In 1976 she delivered the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention that nominated Jimmy Carter.

Due to health reasons, she gave up her seat in Congress and took a faculty position at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas. Jordan died in 1996 at the age of 59.

• Kwame Dawes, Louise Fry Scudder Professor at the University of South Carolina, was inducted into the South Carolina State Library’s Literary Hall of Fame. A native of Ghana and a celebrated poet, Dawes earned a Ph.D. at the University of New Brunswick.

• Maria White, assistant dean of students and director of the Richard Holmes Cultural Diversity Center at Mississippi State University, received the 2009 MSU Diversity Award for her “significant commitment to enhancing diversity and cross-cultural understanding.”

• Hana Stith, president of the African/African American Historical Society and curator of the African/African American Historical Museum in Fort Wayne, Indiana, received the Jasmine Robinson Pioneer Award from the Malcolm X Institute of Black Studies at Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Indiana.


Copyright © 2009. The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education. All rights reserved.