Black males are struggling at HBCUs

According to an Associated Press analysis of government data 37 percent of black students graduate from HBCUs within six years, while only 29 percent of black males graduate from HBCUs within six years. Spelman CollegeHoward University and Morehouse College have the highest graduation rates of all HBCUs.


Men struggling to finish at black colleges

Just 29 percent of HBCU males finish bachelor’s degree in six years

Associate Press

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – They’re no longer the only option for African-American students, but the country’s historically black colleges and universities brag that they provide a supportive environment where these students are more likely to succeed.

That, though, is not necessarily true.

An Associated Press analysis of government data on the 83 federally designated four-year HBCUs shows just 37 percent of their black students finish a degree within six years. That’s 4 percentage points lower than the national college graduation rate for black students.

One major reason: the struggles of black men. Just 29 percent of HBCU males complete a bachelor’s degree within six years, the AP found.

A few HBCUs, like Howard and all-female Spelman, have much higher graduation rates, exceeding the national averages for both black and white students. But others are clustered among the worst-performing colleges in the country. At 38 HBCUs, fewer than one in four men who started in 2001 had completed a bachelor’s degree by 2007, the data show. At Texas Southern, Voorhees, Edward Waters and Miles College, the figure was under 10 percent.

To be sure, women are outperforming men across education, and many non-HBCUs struggle with low graduation rates. And the rates don’t account for students who transfer or take more than six years, which may be more common at HBCUs than at other schools.

Reading this article had me thinking about a letter to the editor I read in the January 2009 issue of Black Enterprise Magazine. A reader mentioned how he was appalled at the list of the Top 50 Colleges for African Americans which included the black graduation rates. The schools listed were HBCUs and non HBCUs (predominantly white universities). He mentioned how even though the article factored in the academic and social environment of the school, the main purpose of attending college is to graduate.  The letter writer was saddened to read that with the exception of Spelman College and Howard University, all the HBCUs had black graduation rates of under 60 percent while most of the non HBUCs had black graduation rates of over 70 percent. I checked this out for myself by looking for my September 2008 issue. I’ll admit that I was a bit surprised to read the difference in graduation rates of black students at HBCU’s and non HBCUs.  And here’s why:

UNCF, the United Negro College Fund, which represents 39 private HBCUs, said on its Web site the “average graduation rate at HBCU(s) is higher than the average graduation rate for African-Americans at majority institutions” — a claim that is contradicted, both for HBCUs and UNCF members, by the AP’s findings.

After inquiries from the AP, the organization removed that statement.

Many folks in the black community are always talking about how nurturing and how much better black students are doing at HBCUs. But apparently the graduation rates of black students at HBCUs shows a different story.  According to the Black Enterprise article some of the HBCUs have graduation rates for black students under 40 percent.

Even some within the tight-knit HBCU community say the schools bear some responsibility. They say too many HBCUs have grown content offering students a chance at college, but resisting the hard work to get them through.

“I think HBCUs have gotten lazy,” said Walter Kimbrough, president of Philander Smith College in Little Rock, Ark. “That was our hallmark 40, 50 years ago. We still say ‘nurturing, caring, the president knows you.’ That’s a lie on a lot of campuses. That’s a flat-out lie.”

I know some black folks will be upset about this article but how can you brag about how nurturing your campus is yet the graduation rates for black students remains low?

You can read the entire article here.

UPDATE:  I found the Black Enterprise Top 50 Colleges for African Americans at Black  You can check out the information on HBCUs and non HBCUs and their black student graduation rates.  I found that the magazine gives a little bit more information on the graduation rates compared to the website.  The website gives more info on social groups, application information and has Admission Q&As.

4 responses

  1. G. LaMont. Thomas

    I was sadly shocked a few years ago, 2006, when I went, as a mentor representative of NAACP’s BEEP program, to Texas Southern School of Business. I, along with several of my African American business professionals, could not believe what we saw. I thought I was in a terrible dream. The students were not very prompt to our presentations, for a business school having invited guests, not many were dressed for success. The best questions came from the Sisters and Hispanic students. Just recalling this event gives me chills. It confirmed to me that the HBCU’s are not doing much, if any, justice to these students or our struggle.

    Making school “easy” and “social” (read FUN) is not going to be funny — whenever these students get their diplomas! A major problen is the “open door” policies of the past and dismal K-12 prep. These students have “benefitted” from social promotions are now going to pay for NOT being told the truth about the so-called good grades they received in K-12. They, and their parents, have been cheated. BIG Time! The only good news: Social grading is taking its toll on majority kids, too! I have seen them at socalled “white” schools. The difference is they are STILL performing better, overall. We better get down to serious work. And let’s not forget why many students go to HBCUs: Their lower grades from K-12 and the desire to (fill in the blank) away from home. Some really are trying to deal with what cards they were dealt; let’s not make it worst by not telling them the truth and raising our standard of expectation.

    I’m in HR and can tell you. I have to look hard to find talent that can 1) write well; 2) think critically; and 3) use applied math. Foriegn nationals and whites fill the pipeline; well ecucated African Americans in the education pipeline get top dollars because there is a big shortage and the private sector is chasing all of them after every graduation.

    Students with TRUE “B” or better grades are all I interview. And we DO test for these abilities: 1) writing well; 2) the ability to think critically; and 3) can you use applied math. We have no “hook-ups” to hand out. The faculty at too many HBCU’s need to make what they do a mission and not just stand by watching, as if they a looking at a traffic accident. Collectively, many are in the process of creating some very bitter young people: They will have degrees without an education of much value in the marketplace, if this is not corrected — now!

  2. What the AP report failed to do, was to present the whole picture. Four year graduation rates are down across the board, not just at HBCUs. At Northern Illinois University the four year graduation rate is at 17% for all students. Some reporters try to factor in race by saying that the rate for black men at predominately white colleges is much higher. Yes but the overall enrollment is so much lower than at predominately black colleges and universities. The fact is a large number of blacks are commuters, and are really part-time students in that they take full time loads, but drop out a semester or two to earn money to attend. Some may take 8-10 years to finish a bachelor’s. I personally know of a man who spent over 10 years working on his bachelor’s and masters, while working on the campus. With the economy being what it is for the last eight years, no wonder people have to drop out to earn money to continue their education.

  3. It could be part of the problem. I’m wondering if alumni contributions play a part as well. Do alumni contribute at the same rate as they do at a non HBCU?

  4. blackgirlinmaine

    I agree that the fact that the HBCU’s are nurturing means very little if they have dismal graduation rates. I would expect the graduation rates to be better than a white school when it comes to Black students.

    On the other hand one of my friend’s sons recently graduated from a HBCU and it sounded like the campus was really disorganized compared to what I am accustomed to at a “white” school. Things like antiquated systems as far as registering for classes and so on…I was really shocked. I wonder of this sort of thing plays into the lower graduation rates.

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