- Black citizens account for 14.6% of 18- to 24-year-olds in the U.S. but only 9.8% of full-time, degree-seeking undergraduates at public colleges and universities, according to a new study from the University of Southern California’s Race and Equity Center.
- The study analyzed the experiences of 900,000 black undergraduate students at every four-year, non-specialized, public postsecondary institution in the U.S., and awarded letter grades to each institution and an indexed score to states based on levels of postsecondary access and success for black students.
- The gap between black female (52%) and male full-time, degree-seeking undergraduates is smaller than the gender gap for all racial and ethnic groups combined, where women account for 56.3% of the total.
- When looking at graduation rates, 41% of public institutions graduate one-third or fewer black students within six years, compared to 50.6% of undergraduates overall. The study also highlighted a shortage of black professors in public higher education, with 40 institutions in the study saying they have no full-time black professors and 44% saying they have hired 10 or fewer full-time black faculty.
The low number of black students who graduate from public institutions within six years is an indicator that they need to do more to help increase graduation rates among this group. But what does that support look like?
Lisa McBride, assistant dean for diversity and inclusion at Texas Christian University, suggests a mix of hardcore academic reinforcement along with the development of leadership and soft skills in public speaking, specifically for black men.
A 2016 report from the Education Trust mentions the success of The Ohio State University, which increased the graduation rate among black students from 42% in 2003 to 73% in 2013 and reduced the graduation gap between black and white students by roughly 10 percentage points during that period. The university has found success reaching out to low-income, first-generation prospective students, most of whom are black, during middle school via its Young Scholars Program.
A professor of biology and associate dean for graduate education at Penn State University, Charles Fisher is focused on recruiting more black and Latino students into science careers. He believes there needs to be a change in the gatekeeper mentality in higher education. Institutions should look at student failure as an institutional problem, and not solely as a problem for the learner. Doing so requires that faculty members reevaluate their teaching methodologies so that more students are able to grasp the material.