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Posted at 4:51 PM ET, 12/13/2010

Many local schools have narrowed the grad gap

By Daniel de Vise

A few dozen of the nation's colleges have drawn notice lately for overcoming racial and ethnic disparities in graduation rates. Several of them are concentrated in the Washington region.

In a story published Sunday, I focus on the gap-closing efforts at Towson University, as good an example as I could find anywhere in the nation.

Before I turn to the others, let me explain why Towson is regarded as a prime example of success in attacking the graduation gap.

America's colleges and universities number in the thousands. Many of them don't serve sufficient numbers of minority students to calculate statistically reliable "gaps." Only some of those schools have small enough gaps to merit praise. An even smaller number have graduation rates high enough to hold up as any kind of national example. (Closing the gap seems less meaningful if the graduation rate is below the national average.)

Here are some schools in Washington, Maryland and Virginia that have drawn attention for closing their gaps. Click on the links for more details.

George Mason University. The Education Trust cites the Northern Virginia institution as one of just 11 schools nationwide with no appreciable gap among whites, blacks or Hispanics. According to EdTrust's analysis of rates from 2006 to 2008, GMU's graduation rates are 63 percent for blacks, 57 percent for whites and 59 percent for Hispanics.

Christopher Newport University. This Virginia public institution is cited by EdTrust for a small black-white gap. Grad rates are 50 percent for whites, 56 percent for blacks. Hispanic graduation rates are lower.

Old Dominion University, Va. The grad rate here is 51 percent for blacks, 47 percent for whites. Below the national average, but gap-free. Grad rates for Hispanics are lower.

Radford University, Va. Grad rates: 60 percent for blacks, 58 percent for whites. Hispanic rates are lower.

UMBC. Grad rates are 60 percent for both blacks and whites. Grad rates are high for Hispanics as well, and I'm not sure why EdTrust doesn't cite the school in its list of high-performing schools with Hispanic students.

Mary Baldwin College. This Virginia private college has a 53 percent grad rate for blacks, 48 percent for whites. Hispanic rates are more volatile.

American University. Grad rates average 74 percent for blacks, 75 percent for whites. The Hispanic rate dipped in 2006.

Virginia Tech. Graduation rates here are an even 80 percent for both Hispanics and whites. Black completion rates are lower.

Virginia Commonwealth University. The completion rate is 47 percent for whites, 45 percent for Hispanics, a gap of 2 points. Black completion rates are a tad lower.

James Madison University. A two-point gap between Hispanics (80.7 percent) and whites (82.4 percent). Black grad rates lag.

And what about ...

University of Maryland? The latest data (from 2008) show completion rates of 68 percent for blacks, 76 percent for Hispanics and 84 percent for whites.

University of Virginia? Grad rates are in the 90s for whites, in the 80s for blacks and Hispanics.

Georgetown? Grad rates are in the low-to-mid-90s for whites but several points lower for blacks and Hispanics.

Follow College Inc. on Twitter.

By Daniel de Vise  | December 13, 2010; 4:51 PM ET
Categories:  Attainment  | Tags:  college attainment, college completion, college completion gap, college graduation, graduation gap  
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Comments

Are all of these colleges racist, or do they just not accept Asians???

Posted by: rush_n_crush | December 13, 2010 7:45 PM | Report abuse

The major limitation with this data and this article is that it looks at a complex, multivariable issue through a single lens - that of graduation rates. It's great that these schools have little or no apparent achievement gap, but before we conclude that this is the result of "better teaching" or more focused student support, let's find out who these universities admit in the first place and who it is they're reporting on in these studies.

Do they limit admission to relatively high achieving students? Do they "count" those students who enroll via special programs or as transfers? In an age of ranking and rating games, institutions (particularly urban, public ones) that are committed to access will always be disadvantaged by simplistic data analysis.

Coming up with ways to report impressive numbers is not the same as figuring out how to best serve a significant segment of our population that has traditionally been ill-served by our educational system, from kindergarten all the way to college.

Posted by: ptoran | December 14, 2010 1:31 PM | Report abuse

Celebrating the closing of a racial graduation gap is important, but from these statistics, it surely can be deceiving. I would propose that celebrating a racial graduation gap of less than 2% is no celebration at all if the school's net graduation rate is only 50% or so for all students, perhaps less in some of these cases. In the article, the institutions listed last, UVA and Georgetown may exhibit apparent gaps of 10% or so, but note that more than 80% of the black students actually graduated! That's worth celebrating! I suspect that may be a higher graduation rate than even Howard or some other historically black universities can claim. Georgetown is the same. It's important to note that only about 1 in 13 or 14 applicants to UVa (and Georgetown) are even admitted, whether in-state or out-of-state. That may mean that they have the pick of the brightest students, those most likely to succeed in college, but even after admission, the competition is really tough. Nevertheless, at UVA even 93% of the athletes graduate within 5 years of enrollment, about the same as the general population. Perhaps, as the earlier commenter suggested, focusing on a single statistic as the article and the underlying EdTrust report seem to have, is just plain tunnel vision.

CAPTTOMB UVA (ED.) '66

Posted by: CAPTTOMB | December 15, 2010 9:46 AM | Report abuse

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