HBCU’s Still Struggle With Low Graduation Rates

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  • There are many reasons why Black students consider attending a historically Black college or university. Not only do HBCU’s provide an education, they offer Black students a strong sense of their Black culture. Angela Boyd, associate director of university admissions of Hampton University, said in the Tom Joyner Foundation’s How to Prepare for College, “HBCU’s give a sense of self-worth that the student may not get from other institutions.”

    Being around students who are the same background and race can make for a more comfortable college atmosphere that usually equates to more success in the classroom. But with everything commendable that HBCU’s can offer to the Black student, there remains a puzzling statistic: the considerably low graduation rate.

    Despite all the resources Black students have available at HBCUs, it doesn’t seem translate to graduation success. But why? Some critics argue that resources are actually lacking at many HBCU’s. College expenses are rising while HBCU’s are simultaneously cutting financial aid budgets, which be a factor in students aren’t completing their educations.

    In the last five years, there has been an increase in graduation rates for HBCUs, which is a positive sign. But the overall percentages remain below standards for Black students overall. The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, in a report, said, “Financial factors are undoubtedly a major factor in the low graduation rates at many of the nation’s historically Black colleges and universities. Despite these factors that tend to put a drag on graduation rates, many HBCUs have made tremendous progress in recent years in increasing the graduation rates of their African-American students.”

    Some critics have argued that HBCUs should tighten up their admission standards, and only accept the top percent of students Black America has to offer. Others have blamed the universities for not doing enough to help their students succeed.

    According to The Journal of Blacks In Higher Education, the HBCU student graduation average is at 42% percent; that percentage is actually higher than the Black student graduation rate nationwide. However, the graduation rate is much lower for HBCU students than the graduation rate at the nation’s highest-ranked institutions, which is expected due to the strict academic standards and enormous endowments of these schools.

    The overall graduation rate for first-time college students is 59%. Although the HBCU graduation rate is considerably higher than the Black nationwide rate, it remains a challenge that stymies administrators, students and parents alike. According to the National Collegiate Athletic Association, The highest HBCU graduation rate is at women’s institution Spelman College (GA) is 79%. The institutions at the bottom of the list are Texas Southern University and the University of the District of Columbia, both graduating an abysmal 11% while Miles College (AL) Rust College (MS) and Coppin State University all come in at 16%. According to statistics published in 2013 on The Journal of Blacks In Higher Education, at the top 10 non-HBCU schools, Black graduation rates average 88%.

    Below is a comparison of the top 5 graduation rates of non-HBCU schools versus HBCUs:

    Top 5 HBCU’s With the Highest Graduation Rate 

    (Source: National Collegiate Athletic Association)

    Spelman College (GA) 79%

    Howard University (D.C.) 64%

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