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

Last week JBHE examined the long-term trend in black graduation rates at the nation’s highest-ranked universities. This week we report the trend in black graduation rates at the nation’s leading liberal arts colleges.

During the 1998 to 2005 period, 16 of the 24 high-ranked liberal arts colleges in our survey showed an improvement in black student graduation rates. At Macalester College in Minnesota, there was a huge 22 percentage point improvement in the seven-year period from 62 percent to 84 percent. At Oberlin, Grinnell, Wellesley, Davidson, Bryn Mawr, and Smith, the black student graduation rate improved by 10 percentage points or more over the past seven years.

Nine highly ranked liberal arts colleges saw a decline in their black student graduation rate over the past seven-year period. By far the largest drop was at Hamilton College in Clinton, New York. In 1998 the school posted a black graduation rate of 90 percent. This year the African-American student graduation rate dropped to 80 percent. The small number of black students at Hamilton (blacks are only 4 percent of the student body) shows how the graduation success or failure of a handful of black students can have a major impact on the school’s graduation rate.

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