Racial Equity: College graduation rate disparity persists among minorities

Sep 24, 2018

It’s a Saturday morning and the University at Buffalo's North Campus is mostly empty.

But inside one of the classrooms, more than a dozen sleepy-eyed students, some armed with coffee, others with snacks, chattered as they waited for a training session to begin.


They’re a group of students from different racial and cultural backgrounds who are learning how to help students who are just like them.

As the training session begins, each of them take turns sharing their college experience story.

Graudate student Adreian Vega Bautista is from Mexico. Vega Bautista, says one of the things that helped him through his undergraduate experience was mentorship.

"They were very helpful overall helping to get out of my shell to try to talk to the professors and get help when I needed it," he said.

A report from the Economic Policy Institute, shows that blacks and Hispanics between the ages of 21-24, are less likely to actually graduate from college, compared to white students.

By The Numbers

  • Less than 20 percent of adults ages 21 – 24 have college degrees.
  • Whites (both male and female) 21.9 percent in the 21 -24 age group have college degrees
  • Blacks 11.4 percent in the 21 -24 age group have college degrees
  • Hispanic 9.1 percent in the 21 -24 age group have college degrees
  • Asian American Pacific Islander 31.8 percent in the 21 -24 age group have college degrees
  • 57.3 percent of degree holders are women; 42.7 percent are men
  • Graduates in this age group are disproportionally white, women or AAPI
  • The gender wage gap for this age group grew from11.0 percent to 14.7 percent between the years 2000 to 2018

(Report “Class of 2018 College Edition” The report examined trends of employment, enrollment, and wages of college graduates of those who graduated in 2018.)

The outlook isn’t all bad for minority students. A 2016 report from the Education Trust showed several institutions across the nation have succeeded in narrowing the graduation rate disparity, one of those schools, was the University at Buffalo. The report states that UB’s graduate rates have been on an incline for minorities.

UB Professor Nathan J. Daun-Barnett works with several programs aimed at increasing college access for city youth. He says even though, UB has been successful in narrowing the gap, the struggle persists for some students.

“The conversations that I have often with the college students, have here run the gamu," he said. "I can’t tell you how many times finances come into play. Money matters."

Also, not taking certain classes, like calculus, in high school can cause stress for some students, once they get into college. Brenda McDuffie is with the Buffalo Urban League. Her organization addresses many topics like college and workforce issues.

“So I find that when I look at our scholarship recipient’s registration many times I’m seeing they are taking developmental courses. Those development courses are utilizing their financial aid, and many times they are not credit bearing courses,” she said. “So you go to college you believe that you are college ready and then you find you have to take these developmental courses."

Daun-Barnett says sometimes minority students just need a sounding board, when they encounter emotional situations, like racism on campus.

“The student of color will be asked to basically represent the views of their group,” he said. “Well, they don’t represent the views of their group, in any way that a white student represents all white students, but they’re put in that position.”