The Nationwide Racial Gap in College Graduation Rates

Data compiled by the National Collegiate Athletic Association shows graduation rates of for all students who entered college in 2009 and earned their degrees within six years at the association’s Division I institutions. These colleges and universities are among the largest in the nation. For all students who enrolled in bachelor’s degree programs at these four-year institutions in 2009, 66 percent earned their degrees by 2015.

But there were wide discrepancies when we compare the graduation rates of African Americans with those of other racial and ethnic groups. In fact, Blacks had the lowest graduation rate of any racial or ethnic group. Only 46 percent of all Black students who entered bachelor’s degree programs at four-year institutions in 2009 earned their degree within six years.

The Black student college graduation rate of 46 percent was 22 percentage points lower than the rate for Whites and 31 percentage points below the rate for Asian Americans. The Black student graduation rate trailed the rates for Hispanics by 14 percentage points.

For Black and African American students there was a 8 percentage point gap in graduation rates in favor of women. Some 49 percent of Black women earned their degrees within six years compared to 41 percent of Black men.


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  1. Jerald Henderson, PhD says:

    This article provided data that should not be surprising to anyone who has tracked graduation rates, especially among minority students. African Americans, in particular, continue to struggle in persisting and attaining a four year degree. There are many reasons why completion rates remain problematic within Division I schools (those that have very large student enrollments). The question becomes, why are these schools not responding to these statistics since individual institutions are aware that there are serious challenges and difficulties for both minority and first generation students. Having this data without addressing the root causes that inhibit improvement is a recipe for a continuation of ‘bad’ news in years to come. It is important that serious consideration be given by these institutions to make real efforts in improving student persistence and completion rates.

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