Harvard Leads in Black Grad. Rate

University boasts graduation rate more than double national average

Harvard’s graduation rate for black students rose to 95 percent this year—a 2 percent jump—as the College leapfrogged Amherst to lead the nation and remain over 50 percentage points above the national mean.

In an article in its Winter 2005/2006 edition, The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education (JBHE) reported that while nationally black students graduate at a “dismally low 42 percent,” the rate is highest at the nation’s most prestigious institutions. Amherst and Princeton University ranked second and third, and only four of the nation’s “highly-ranked” schools graduate less than 70 percent of black students, according to JBHE.

Harvard’s white students graduate at a rate of 97 percent, giving Harvard one of the nation’s smallest graduate rate differentials between black and white students.

Nationally, the JBHE reported that black women graduate at a rate of 46 percent, compared with 35 percent for black men.

Mount Holyoke and Smith Colleges, both women’s schools, have graduation rates that are 4 percentage points higher for black than white students, though neither tops 90 percent.

Though numerous universities have white graduation rates that top 90 percent, only nine universities have black graduation rates above 90 percent—including Brown, Northwestern, Washington University in St. Louis, Wellesley, Wesleyan, Williams, and Harvard, Amherst, and Princeton.

Harvard Black Men’s Forum (BMF) President Tracy T. Moore II ’06 said that with all the resources available at Harvard, he wonders “what type of infrastructure is in place at these other institutions” with lower graduation rates.

Moore attributed the high rate of graduation at Harvard partially to the BMF’s outreach efforts for freshmen, along with the College’s own programs.

Moore said that programs like the BMF’s brother-to-brother program, which matches first-years with upperclassman mentors, immediately acclimate freshmen to Harvard and can directly affect the school’s rates of retention and graduation.

“There are a couple of BMF alumni who say the only reason they actually graduated was because of the BMF itself,” Moore said.

The JBHE also reported that graduation rates can be bolstered by race-sensitive admissions procedures and large black campus communities, and lowered by science-heavy curricula.

However, Harvard—which does not explicitly take race into account for admissions decisions and is about 9 percent black—has still maintained a high rate.

The JBHE looked to Carnegie Mellon University—with its science-heavy curriculum and 65 percent black graduation rate—to support its claim that a school’s curriculum can affect graduation rates.

The President and Vice President of the Black Students Association could not be reached for comment last night.

—Staff writer Benjamin L. Weintraub can be reached at bweintr@fas.harvard.edu.