Updated on March 23, 2016
Many more black students are graduating from college than a decade ago. According to a new report from The Education Trust, a nonprofit that focuses on improving outcomes for low-income students of color, completion rates for African Americans increased at nearly 70 percent of the four-year public schools that raised their overall graduations rates between 2003 and 2013. But at the same time, a third of the colleges the group studied that had rising overall graduation rates actually had stagnant or declining graduation rates for black students.
More than 50 schools have also reduced graduation gaps between black and white students, including Texas Tech University and Ohio State University. The report outlines a series of efforts that, if scaled effectively, might help more colleges boost graduation rates for black students, which, at about 47 percent in 2013 at public universities, remain significantly lower than the 65 percent graduation rate for white students. “These institutions illustrate that demographics aren’t destiny and that what colleges do with and for their students plays a pivotal role in student success,” write the authors.
At Ohio State, where the black graduation rate has climbed from about 42 percent in 2003 to around 73 percent in 2013, the gap between white and black students has shrunk by more than 8 points. In other words, white and black students are graduating at higher rates than they used to, but blacks have made gains at a faster pace. As the report outlines, the school connects with low-income, first-generation potential students, most of them black, when they are in middle school through the Young Scholars Program, which points them toward the classes and study habits they will need to succeed in college. If they enroll at Ohio State, they get an annual scholarship, attend a summer bridge program and a study-skills course to ease the transition to school, and meet with coaches and mentors regularly. There are off-campus weekend retreats, conversations about race on campus, and a research center that brings black students from around the country to campus to share best practices and challenges.