Hundreds of Thousands of African-American College Dropouts

Often when JBHE or other publications report graduation rates of African-American college students the discussion is presented in terms of percentages. But this tends to obscure the fact of how many African-American people are harmed by having to actually drop out of school.

For example, in the 1997 to 2000 period nearly 267,000 black students enrolled as freshmen at the 320 colleges and universities that make up Division I of the National Collegiate Athletic Association. Of these, only 44 percent went on to earn a diploma within six years. Therefore, a huge number of nearly 150,000 blacks entered these schools but did not graduate.

The problem of African-American college dropouts is best illustrated by the number of blacks who are enrolled in colleges and universities nationwide as freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors. As shown in the accompanying chart, there is a significant drop-off each year in African-American enrollments as students progress toward a four-year degree.

This data confirms that there are hundreds of thousands of young blacks who drop out of college each year. African-American college graduates have median incomes nearly equal to whites. If these hundreds of thousands of black students were able to stay in college and earn a degree, there would be a major impact in reducing racial inequality in the United States.