The Positive Trend in Black Student Graduation Rates at the Nation’s Highest-Ranked Universities

Of the 27 high-ranked universities for which JBHE has long-term college completion data, the black graduation rate has improved at 24 institutions.

The greatest improvement in the black student college graduation rate has occurred at the California Institute of Technology. The black student graduation rate at CalTech has improved from 60 percent in 1998 to 83 percent in 2006. But there are so few black students at CalTech, usually one or two in each class, that the graduation rate figure can fluctuate to a large degree based on the performance of just one or two students.

Far more impressive is the 18 percentage point increase in the black student graduation rate at Carnegie Mellon University. There, the four year average black graduation rate rose from 47 percent in 1998 to 67 percent in 2006.

Similarly impressive gains in black student graduation rates have occurred at the University of Pennsylvania, Rice University, UCLA, and Columbia University. Each university has seen its black student graduation rate improve by at least 15 percentage points over the 1998 to 2006 period. Columbia University, which showed an 8 percentage point drop in black student graduation rates from 1993 to 1999, has rebounded over the past seven years. Since 1999 the black student graduation rate at Columbia rose from 72 percent to 87 percent.

The University of Virginia and Georgetown University have shown no improvement in their black student graduation rate over the period, but both schools maintain a very high success rate for graduating their black students.

The only decline in the black student graduation rates among the high-ranked universities in the past eight years was at Tufts University. There, the black graduation rate dropped from 82 percent in 1998 to 80 percent in 2006.