Eduventures® Releases In-Depth Report on the Current Higher Education Journey for Black Students and Identifies Colleges that Buck the Trend

April 1, 2021

Going Beyond the Numbers, the Report Considers Institutional History, Initiative, Leadership, and Culture and Highlights Institutions that have Demonstrated Success in Serving Black Students

Boston, MA – April 1, 2021 – ​ACT® | NRCCUA®, an educational data science and research organization, announced the publication of a report focused on the education journey for Black students. Eduventures® Research, Transcending the Current Higher Education Journey for Black Students: Colleges that Buck the Trend, authored by Eduventures Chief Research Officer, Richard Garrett was released today. Eduventures is the research division of NRCCUA.

When discussing higher education and Black students, two things are well-established: underrepresentation among traditional-aged undergraduates, and below-average six-year graduation rates. Drawing on data, websites, and interviews, the report considers the rare institutions—selective and otherwise—that not only transcend this unfortunate state-of-affairs, but also demonstrate a combination of a sizeable and growing traditional-aged Black undergraduate cohort, a superior overall graduation rate, and a Black graduation rate that surpasses the institutional average. The report attempts to go beyond the numbers to consider institutional history, initiative, leadership, and culture.

Key Research Findings Include:

  1. Black share of the undergraduate student population (those students who identify as “Black or African American”) stood at 11.9% in 1999, peaked at 14.7% in 2011, and then fell to 12.9% in 2019 (the most recent year available). Black enrollment surged during and immediately after the Great Recession, and then—more than average—fell off over the course of the long recovery.Between 2010 and 2019, total undergraduates dropped 9%, but Black undergraduates declined 20%. In 2019, the six-year graduation rate for all first-time, full-time undergraduates was 60%; for Black students it was 40%.
  2. A number of schools have bucked the trend: enrolling a sizeable and growing Black cohort and reporting higher graduation rates than the rate for the institution overall. Report findings show 37 institutions (3.9%) have the distinction of graduating Black students at a rate of three percentage points or higher than average. Another 154 schools (16%) report a Black graduation rate within +/- three percentages points of the average.
  3. Three schools, representing very different institutional types, are profiled, considering not only data but also illuminating something of the policies and practices behind these apparent success stories. These include, SUNY Albany (also known as the University of Albany), Towson University, and Amherst College.

“Very few U.S four-year colleges and universities (excluding HBCUs) exemplify a true commitment to Black students: enrolling them at or above population incidence, growing this cohort strongly over time, posting a Black first-time, full-time graduation rate above 70%, and a graduation rate that matches or exceeds the institutional average,” commented Richard Garrett, Eduventures Chief Research Officer at ACT | NRCCUA, and author of this report.

“Among the handful that get close to this ideal, most hit some of these metrics but not others: a stellar graduation rate but flat or down Black enrollment.” Garrett added, “all of these schools would acknowledge they have plenty of work still to do. But they are role models in that each has managed something very few other schools, of any type, have achieved: to graduate traditional-aged Black undergraduates at a rate far above the national average and close this population’s graduation gap that is the norm at most peers.”

DEI and Black Underrepresentation

Higher education leaders cannot be “neutral” on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiatives and must address sustained Black underrepresentation. There are no simple answers, but those rare institutions that have made more progress than most deserve acknowledgment and emulation, and more needs to be done to unpack and propel their success. The ultimate test for higher education leaders is to create a multi-prong strategic plan that will continue to grow Black enrollment and sustain or improve graduation rate outperformance for this population.

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