(The Root) – Analyses that evaluate the success of HBCUs by observing their six-year graduation rates often miss the mark. On the surface, graduation rates tell us little about a college’s or university’s ability to educate a racially and economically diverse student body.
HBCUs have garnered well-deserved praise for successfully educating a cross section of black students; however, they are often chided for having low graduation rates. The average graduation rate for students across all HBCUs is 42 percent, slightly above the graduation rate for black students at all institutions, but less than half the rate of the predominately white institutions that have the highest graduation rates for black students.
Institutions like Spelman College, Howard University and Hampton University are often touted as model HBCUs because their graduation rates exceed 60 percent. However, each of these institutions also reject applicants at a higher rate; have tuition and fees that exceed $20,000, more than twice the HBCU average of $9,701; and have less than 50 percent of their freshman classes eligible for the federal Pell grant. Only students from families with economic need are eligible for the Pell grant; however, the colleges and universities that serve Pell-eligible students best are rarely portrayed as having model programs.
The top three universities for graduating black students within six years are Yale (98 percent), Harvard (97 percent) and Princeton (97 percent).