Ohio State Shows Why Demographics Don’t Determine College Outcomes
Barely 3 in 10 black men, who are first-time, full-time students at public four-year colleges and universities, earn a bachelor’s degree within six years of initial enrollment. That’s far worse than white males who have a 57 percent completion rate, but it doesn’t have to be. Take a look at Ohio State University.
There, nearly 7 in 10 first-time, full-time black male students earn bachelor’s degrees. It’s the highest graduation rate (68.3 percent) for Ohio State black males in the last decade, and it’s an increase of 31 percentage points since 2002. That’s bigger than meets the eye.
Education folks sometimes brush over the distinction between percentage points and percentages, which understates the magnitude of change. So if we convert that 31 percentage-point increase into an actual percentage, we find that Ohio State has boosted their black male graduation rate by a whopping 83 percent over the last decade. Ohio State is proving that individual colleges and universities play a crucial role in boosting the education and career prospects of black males.
Ohio State administrators attribute* their progress, in part, to two programs at the university: The first is a resource center that coordinates support initiatives and programs for African American males; second is the Early Arrival Program that provides orientation for black men prior to the start of the semester. It introduces students to advisers and support programs that help ensure a successful transition to college.
Before Ohio State dislocates a shoulder patting itself on the back though, it should know that its black men still graduate at a lower rate than the university average (79.9 percent) and at a lower rate than Latino and white men — 76.1 percent and 79.7 percent, respectively. Moreover, the rate for black women is more than 7 percentage points higher than the rate for black men. These gaps are not inevitable. Colleges with similar demographics to Ohio State, like the University of Florida, are serving their black males better and helping them graduate at higher rates.
That’s not to diminish Ohio State’s progress. Other Ohio universities are struggling, with black graduation rates as low as 9.8 percent. (Psst. We’re talking about you, University of Akron.) Ohio State should be applauded, as should its leaders, for standing up to the damaging and false belief that demographics effectively determine the ability of a student to graduate.
You’re doing a good job, Buckeyes. Now, do more.
*This article uses graduation statistics that are not publicly available, which is why they are different from ours.