STUDY: Graduation Gap Growing Between Black and White Students

By Kenrya Rankin Mar 23, 2016

A new report shows that America’s higher education institutions still have distance to cover when it comes to addressing the inequities that negatively impact Black students.

The Education Trust’s new report, “Rising Tide II: Do Black Students Benefit as Grad Rates Increase?” examined the outgoing classes of 232 four-year public colleges whose graduation rates increased over the decade ending in 2013. The Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit found that despite an overall jump in students collecting their degrees, the completion gap between Black and White students continues to widen—even when controlling for students’ incoming SAT and ACT scores and university resources.

At nearly a third of the schools included in the report, Black students’ graduation rates declined or were flat, while their peers’ rates improved. And while more Black students are matriculating from the remaining schools, the gains are much smaller and slower compared to those of other students.

“Even among the institutions that improved, Black students were not always able to reap the benefits,” Andrew Nichols, Education Trust’s director of higher education research and data analytics and a co-author of the report told The Huffington Post. “What we see in our report lends credibility to what the student activists have been saying. You can think it’s anecdotal when it’s just a protest here and there, but what we find here are distributing trends that have been taking place for years and years.”

The report also features several schools that have successfully improved graduation rates across the board and closed the completion gap, with an eye toward sharing best practices in the areas of academic advising, curricula, financial aid and tutoring. The University at Buffalo, The Ohio State University, North Carolina State and Rutgers University–New Brunswick were at the top of the pack. “Our data show that university leaders can and should do more to create a more supportive and welcoming environment that allows black students to thrive,” Nichols said in a press release.

At the bottom of the list: University of Missouri-Kansas City, where the graduation rate gap is 22.7 percentage points, and Concord University, where the graduation rate for Black students has dropped 18.1 percentage points since 2003.