Student and Faculty Diversity Reduces the Black-White College Graduation Rate Gap

A study led by Nicholas A. Bowman, Mary Louise Petersen Chair in Higher Education at the University of Iowa, finds that college graduation gaps between Black and White students tend to shrink when there are more students of color or faculty of color on campus.

Professor Bowman and co-author Nida Denson of Western Sydney University Australia examined data on race-related data on enrollments, faculty, and graduation rates at more than 2,800 four-year colleges and universities in the United States. They found that in schools where 5 percent of the student body is Black, White students are 16 percent more likely than Black students to graduate. In colleges where 45 percent of the students are Black, White students are only 8 percent more likely to graduate than Black students. At colleges and universities with a majority-Black student population, Black students have the same graduation rates as White students.

Professor Bowman notes that “not only did we find that the gap in graduation rates between Black and White students is smaller at colleges with a larger percentage of Black students or faculty, we also found that the presence of one racial group may lead to smaller graduation gaps for other groups as well. For example, a greater percentage of Black students or instructors often helps shrink the graduation gap between other groups, such as Latino and White students.”

The full study, “Institutional Racial Representation and Equity Gaps in College Graduation,” was published in the Journal of Higher Education. It may be accessed here.

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