Black graduation rates higher than average at WU
According to a new study published in The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education (JBHE), black students at Washington University currently lead their peers in graduation rates, reversing a nationwide trend. These statistics make Washington University one of the nation’s five highest ranked colleges with a higher graduation rate for blacks than whites. Universities with a higher graduation rate among black students were Pomona College, Macalester College, Wellesley College and Mount Holyoke College.
At Washington University, African-American students account for eight percent of the total student body, while Caucasians count for a majority of the student body with 66 percent, according to admission statistics from 1994-1997 averages. With a graduation rate of 89 percent, black students surpass their white classmates, who have a graduation rate of 88 percent, by one percentage point, upon the basis of information held by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). Data collected by the NCAA is not only affected by student dropouts but also by students who choose to leave school for work, travel or transfer to a different university.
These statistics run counter to the national trend, which still indicates a disparity between blacks and whites at the majority of top-rated schools in the nation. The JBHE article stated that nationally, the college graduation rate for black students stands at 40 percent, while white students graduate at a rate of 61 percent. This troubling statistic is the result of multiple environmental and non-environmental factors.
According to JBHE, one factor influencing a student’s ability to perform in college may be differences in curriculum. Schools heavily orientated toward a science curriculum can leave black students uncomfortable and intimidated by white faculty members and administrators who believe that African Americans are not competitive with their peers in those disciplines.
This makes the University’s statistics even more surprising, given its reputation as a “science school.” Positive factors noted by JHBE, however, may help to explain Washington University’s higher graduation rate for black students. One factor that may contribute to this trend is the high availability of financial aid. At Washington University, about 60 percent of all undergraduates currently receive financial assistance, whether through grants, scholarships, or other awards.
The JHBE also noted that a positive racial climate, as well as orientation and retention programs, can help black students adjust to the campus atmosphere.
Washington University currently offers multiple cultural groups that encourage black empowerment and pride. Some of these groups include the Association of Black Students and the annual performance of Black Anthology, which attracts waves of students of all ethnicities. There are also various academic clubs available to black students such as the Black Pre-Law and Pre-Med Societies.
Leslie Brown, assistant professor of African and Afro-American studies, offers yet another reason for Washington University’s unusual graduation statistics.
“I am not surprised that African Americans students might do a little better, because they are serious about their education,” Brown said. “They have much more to lose by not succeeding. Washington University has worked to attract very strong and serious black students, just as we have been attracting all kinds of students.”
In the academic year of 2002-2003, the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education ranked the University fourth in the category of “Integrating African-American undergraduates. In that same year, the University ranked first in two categories, namely “Comparative graduation rates of blacks and whites, and “Five-year progress in black faculty appointments.”
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