The Trend in Black Student Graduation Rates at Liberal Arts Colleges

Last week we reported the overall positive trend in black student graduation rates at the nation’s highest-ranked universities. Now we turn to the progress at the nation’s leading liberal arts colleges.

In 2006, 15 of the 24 high-ranked liberal arts colleges in our survey have shown an improvement in black student graduation rates from their 1998 rates. At Macalester College in Minnesota, there was a huge 22 percentage point improvement in the eight-year period, from 62 percent to 84 percent. At Oberlin, Grinnell, Wellesley, Davidson, Bryn Mawr, Trinity, and Smith, the black student graduation rate improved by 10 percentage points or more over the past eight years.

Eight highly ranked liberal arts colleges saw a decline in black student graduation rates over the past eight-year period. By far 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 dropped to 81 percent.

Vassar College and Carleton College have also shown significant decreases in their black student graduation rates in recent years.