HBCU Four-Year Graduation Rates Are Considerably Low 

Aaron Thomas | Staff Writer

North Carolina Central University was ranked the “#1 Public HBCU in the Nation,” in 2010 by the U.S. News & World Report, however recent graduation rates have many wondering both how and why.

According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, in the fall of 2010 NCCU’s four-year graduation rate was 18 percent. Its six-year graduation rate was 38.3 percent.

Established for African-American students to attend and surround themselves with like-minded individuals, HBCU institutions are supposed to foster a learning environment for students of color that is both academic and social.

The Higher Education Act of 1965 defines an HBCU as “any historically black college or university that was established prior to 1964,

whose principal mission was, and is, the education of black Americans, and that is accredited by a nationally recognized accrediting agency or association determined by the Secretary [of Education] to be a reliable authority as to the quality of training offered or is, according to such an agency or association, making reasonable progress toward accreditation.”

When Yesenia Salas, a NCCU freshman studying Nursing learned of Central’s four-year graduation rates she said, “It is really low, [and it is also] not something I was expecting. I know it has increased over the years though.”

Franklin McKoy, a junior in Mass Communication with a Spanish minor mirrored Salas’ thoughts saying, “That’s horrible.”

Central isn’t the only HBCU in North Carolina with a low four-year graduation rate.

Statistics from the Chronicle of Higher Education show that Elizabeth City State University leads with 19.3 percent and North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University trails behind with 15.1 percent of students becoming four-year graduates. A possible factor in the low four-year graduation rates of HBCUs could be the less than competitive academic requirements and admissions process for first-year students.

As constituent universities of the University of North Carolina system, applicants to any UNC campus must complete minimum course requirements in high school.

However, according to College Board, 96 percent of incoming freshmen at N.C State have a GPA of a 3.75 or higher, while at Central 10 percent of incoming freshmen have a 3.75 or higher.

In comparison to other North Carolina HBCUs, Central’s admissions process is somewhat selective. College Board statistics reveal that in the fall 2012, 52 percent of 9,240 applicants were accepted to the university. N.C. A&T admitted 66.4 percent of 6,692 applicants.

Despite the dismal four-year graduation rates of the past, things may be looking up for NCCU; this past Friday it received news of the hiring of a new chancellor, Dr. Debra Saunders-White. Saunders- White is an U.S. education official who has a stellar background in business, higher education and government.

Saunders-White also appears to have a hopeful mindset, noting that the institution “is on the right path.”

McKoy hopes the new chancellor is able to set a new standard. “It would be nice if she actually bridges the gap between faculty and students, as well as brings prestige back to campus life,” he said.

Central has been working to restore its prestige through the implementation of several keystone programs.

“We have a program called Centennial Scholars,” said Salas. “It is geared towards minority males on campus since our campus is predominately female.”

McKoy, who is a member of the Centennial Scholars Program also elaborated on the campus requirements expected of each student at NCCU. “Each student is required to receive six hours of tutoring each week. Some of the tutors come from UNC and N.C. State.”

Some may find this understandable since African American students attending N.C. State in 2010 had a 29.3 percent four-year graduation rate and the overall four-year graduation rate for the university was 41.4 percent, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education.