Black On Campus
Higher Education and the African American Experience

Black College Graduation Rate at an All-Time High

June 9th, 2008 by Ajuan Mance

Georgia Tech engineering grad celebrates commencement.

The June 5, 2008 bulletin of the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education reports:

According to the U.S. Department of Education, in the year 2006 blacks earned 142,420 four-year bachelor’s degrees from American colleges and universities. The number of blacks earning bachelor’s degrees was up more than 4 percent from the previous year, 2005. In 2006 the number of African Americans earning bachelor’s degrees was the highest in this nation’s history. The figure was more than double the number of bachelor’s degrees earned by blacks in 1990.

Blacks are now nearly 12 percent of total enrollments in higher education, but in the 2006 academic year they earned only 9.6 percent of all bachelor’s degrees awarded. But note that this figure also measures considerable progress. As recently as 1985, blacks, who were then about 11.5 percent of the population, earned only 5.9 percent of all bachelor’s degrees awarded in the United States.

At a time when our historical perspective on Black progress is often warped by the dearth of coverage of any coverage of African American achievement, the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education gives us a much needed dose of perspective. This report by the JBHE gives us many important reasons to feel both proud and optimistic about African American educational attainment. Consider:

  • In only 16 years (1990 to 2006) the number of Black people earning bachelor’s degrees in the U.S. actually doubled! If the number of Black bachelor’s degree recipients continues to rise at the current rate, then by 2022 we can expect the Black proportion of all bachelor’s degrees earned to have oustripped the proportion of Black people in the U.S. the population. In short, Black people will likely be earning undergraduate degrees at a disproportionately high rate.
  • The Black rate of enrollment in U.S. colleges and universities is nearly equal to our proportion of the U.S. population. This means that young Black college aspirants should no longer believe that college is an unrealistic goal. We make up just over 12 percent of the U.S. population, and we make up 12 percent of the population of U.S. college students.
  • More than 140,000 Black college graduates enter U.S. graduate schools and the workforce every year!

More than anything else, the JBHE reports demonstrates that Black people need neither the acknowledgement or affirmation of the mainstream media or the white majority in order to make educational strides that are in our best interest. Even as the newsmedia, the movie industry, and other purveyors of Black images are doing their level best to reinforce the notion that education, intellectual curiosity, and academic achievement are antithetical to Blackness, African Americans are pursuing their academic goals and dreams in opposition to all prevailing stereotypes. Unable to look to television or the popular press for role models, Black people are finding them in their own families or communities and/or locating the motivation and courage to pursue higher education within themselves.

This brings me to the greatest reason to be optimistic based on the JBHE report:

  • This monumental increase in Black college graduation rates has taken place during the very same period in which affirmative action has come under attack across the country, including a spate of state-wide propositions that eliminated affirmative action at colleges and universities in many states with high Black populations.

To Black students past, present, and future, congratulations and keep on keeping on!

Posted by Ajuan Mance

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Posted in Achivement Gap, Affirmative Action, African American Students, Black Students, graduation rates, Higher Education, Uncategorized

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