Report shows racial disparities in college graduation rates

Staff Writer

New research from the University of Chicago (U. of C.) explores the racial disparities of college graduation rates.

Micere Keels, associate professor of human development at the U. of C., took the lead in a project that compiled the graduation rates, according to race, of more than 1,800 colleges and universities.

“This report highlights the need to go beyond each institution’s overall graduation rate and examine racial- and ethnic-specific graduation rates,” Keels said in an April 12 statement.

Keels heads a research collective called the EdTalk Project, which translates education data for members of the public, practitioners, policymakers and journalists.

Keels findings show that the graduation rates of Black and Latino students are often lower than those of their white classmates.

“The consequence of these racial and ethnic gaps is that blacks and Latinos are more likely to enter adulthood with student debt but no degree,” Keels said.

According to the study, Kansas State University enjoys an overall graduation rate of 59 percent. However, that rate drops to 47 percent when only taking into account Latino students, and it drops to an even lower 26 percent when looking at Black students.

The U. of C., which boasts an overall graduation rate of 92 percent, is not impervious to the phenomenon. The university’s overall graduation rate drops to 89 percent for Latino students and 86 percent for Black students.

Keels said that prospective college students should take her data into account when deciding on the right school.

“The graduation rate is not the only indicator that matters, but it is a tangible number that students can use to guide their decision,” Keels said. “Freshman should enroll at the school with the highest graduation rate for their racial or ethnic group to which they have been admitted. If all of the schools to which they have been admitted have very low graduation rates, they should think twice about the amount of debt they will need to incur.”

The full report and list of more than 1,800 schools is available at