According to the recent Lumina Foundation-Gallup 2023 State of Higher Education study, black students have lower six-year graduation rates from degree or certificate programs than any other racial or ethnic group.
These results are the result of racial discrimination, the high cost of college education and several external responsibilities, the study found. Over the last ten years, the number of black students as a whole has decreased.
A minority of black Americans (35%) hold associate degrees or higher, which can be a problem for career mobility and overall well-being because even high-paying jobs that don’t require a degree may still require certification and training.
The study found that black students in less racially diverse programs are more likely to feel discriminated against, physically and psychologically unsafe, and disrespected, prompting them to drop out of higher education.
Black respondents in short-term degree programs (32%) reported feeling discriminated against at least sometimes, compared to respondents in associate (16%) and bachelor’s programs (14%). And black students at private for-profit institutions are more likely (34%) to report discrimination than students at public (17%) or private nonprofit institutions (23%), according to the study.
“The data is sad and worrying, but we can’t hide the fact that we now have the data and say we don’t know anymore,” said Dr. Courtney Brown, Vice President of Strategic Impact and Planning, Lumina Foundation. .
In terms of external responsibilities, the study found that black undergraduates were twice as likely (36%) as other undergraduates (18%) to have a role as caregivers or full-time workers.
The study also includes recommendations to help fix such issues as offering on-campus childcare, increasing financial aid and scholarships, providing more flexibility in coursework, appointing more people of color to leadership positions, and ensuring zero-tolerance policies for discrimination.
Brown praised Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) as institutions with leaders who look like their students and provide a sense of belonging.
“But it’s not just up to HBCUs — it’s up to all institutions to ensure that they are inclusive, that they don’t discriminate against any individual, that they provide a welcoming environment, and that they work to ensure the success of every single student they enroll,” Brown said.