Long-Term Trend in Black Student Graduation Rates at the Nation’s Highest-Ranked Liberal Arts Colleges

In 2007, 15 of the 22 high-ranked liberal arts colleges for which JBHE has long-range data showed an improvement in black student graduation rates from their 1998 rates. At Oberlin College in Ohio, there was a huge 23 percentage point improvement in the decade from 56 percent to 79 percent. At Macalester College in Minnesota, there was a 20 percentage point gain since 1998. At Wellesley, Davidson, Trinity, and Smith, the black student graduation rate improved by 11 percentage points or more over the past eight years.

Six highly ranked liberal arts colleges saw a decline in their black student graduation rate over the past decade. The largest drop was at Haverford College in Pennsylvania. In 1998 the school posted a black graduation rate of 93 percent. This year the African-American student graduation rate stands at 84 percent. But it is important to note that the black student graduation rate at Haverford rose by three percentage points this year.

For reasons that are unclear, Vassar College, Bowdoin College, Hamilton College, and Washington and Lee University have also shown significant decreases in their black student graduation rates in recent years.