College Completion Rates
In 1975, 6 percent of African American males over age twenty – five and 5 percent of African American females had completed 4 or more years of college. By 1992, 12.2 percent of Black men and 11.8 percent of Black women ages twenty-five to thirty-four years old had completed the bachelor’s or a higher degree. In 1992, 24.1 percent of white men and 24.3 percent of white females had completed the B. A. or a higher college degree.7
These figures illuminate the advances of African Americans in education over the past twenty-six years. They display a drop in the overall racial gap in high school completion rates between white and Black populations, as well as an increase in Black college enrollment and completion. However, these same data expose disturbing trends affecting African American females in high school and the likelihood of African American males graduating from college.
According to the statistics, African American female high school graduation rates declined 14 points, to 64 percent, between 1970 and 1991. This is especially bothersome considering African American male high school graduation rates soared 17 points to 72 percent for the same period. While both African American males and females continue to lag behind their white counterparts in this area, African American females are the only group to record a decline over the period examined. This troubling information forces us to consider that this group may be exposed to particular challenges escaped by their peers.
These statistics also illustrate that Black males differentially drop out of the sequence leading from grade school to high school. Alexander Astin describes this sequence using the metaphor of a pipeline; Michael Olivas prefers the metaphor of a river. Whether one adopts an inanimate or organic metaphor, the point is that, at each step or stage along the way, the exit or removal of Black males is disproportionate. The years studied produced only an 11 percent increase in Black male enrollment in college. When compared to the significant gains made by other minority groups like Asians8 and Hispanics,9 this paltry increase in Black male collegiate matriculation is particularly revealing.