High-Ranking Institutions With Low Black Student Graduation Rates

In last week’s edition of the JBHE Weekly Bulletin we identified the colleges and universities that have the highest black student graduation rates. Harvard, Amherst, Princeton, and Wellesley turned in the highest graduation rates for black students.

But the graduation rates for black students at several high-ranking institutions severely lag those of black students at peer institutions. Among the nation’s colleges that are prestigious and commonly rated as highly selective, the lowest black student graduation rate occurs at Bates College in Maine. Only 64 percent of the black freshmen who enroll at Bates College go on to graduate. Among the high-ranking universities, the lowest black student graduation rate is at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. But the number of black students at Carnegie Mellon is not large. Moreover, the curriculum at Carnegie Mellon is heavily directed toward science. This may be a factor in the relatively low graduation rate of black students at Carnegie Mellon.

Far more disturbing is the poor black student graduation rate at the academically selective University of Michigan. This is a huge state university of 40,000 students. And performance there is often viewed as a national bellwether. Currently, only 67 percent of entering students at the University of Michigan go on to graduate. At the moment there are nearly 1,900 black students at the University of Michigan, the largest black enrollment of any high-ranking college or university. If these black students graduate at the same rate as their peers in the recent past, more than 600 of them will fail to earn their bachelor’s degree.

As for the nation’s other high-ranked institutions, only three other schools have a black student graduation rate below 70 percent. They are the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Colby College, and Carleton College.

Copyright © 2006. The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education. All rights reserved.