The Persisting Racial Gap in College Student Graduation Rates

The U.S. Department of Education has released new data on nationwide graduation rates for students who entered college in the fall of 2001 and who earned their degrees within six years.

Nationwide, 40.5 percent of all black students matriculating in 2001 earned a degree at the same institution within six years. For whites, the rate was 59.4 percent.

The graduation rate for black students at private colleges and universities was slightly higher at 45 percent. But for the private institutions, the racial gap was actually wider at 21.6 percentage points.

The new data also shows a significant gender gap in African-American college graduation rates. At private colleges and universities nationwide, nearly half of all black women earn their degrees within six years compared to 38.6 percent of black men. At state-operated colleges and universities, the graduation rate for black women is 43.1 percent. For black men, only 31.4 percent graduate within six years.