Only 4 percent of all African-American students at Northeastern Illinois graduated within six years
About 50 colleges across the country have a six-year graduation rate below 20 percent, according to the Education Trust, a nonprofit research group. Many of the institutions serve low-income and minority students.
Such numbers have prompted a fierce debate here — and in national education circles — about who is to blame for the results, whether they are acceptable for nontraditional students, and how universities should be held accountable if the vast majority of students do not graduate.
“If you’re accepting a child into your institution, don’t you have the responsibility to make sure they graduate?” asked Melissa Roderick, the co-director of the Consortium on Chicago School Research, which produced the study.
“I think people had absolutely no idea that our local colleges were running graduation rates like that,” Dr. Roderick said. “I don’t think we have any high school in the city that has graduation rates like these colleges.”
Northeastern’s results were particularly low among African-Americans, with only 8 percent of entering full-time freshmen earning degrees within six years.
The report, which was released last spring, examined students who graduated from Chicago public schools in 1998, 1999, 2002 and 2003. It also cited federal statistics showing that only 4 percent of all African-American students at Northeastern Illinois graduated within six years. The most recent federal data, released in August, shows the figure to be 8 percent for freshmen who entered in 1999 and would have graduated by 2005.
A federal commission that examined the future of American higher education recommended in August that colleges and universities take more responsibility for ensuring that students complete their education. Charles Miller, the commission chairman, said that if graduation rates were more readily available, universities would be forced to pay more attention to them.
“Universities in America rank themselves on many factors, but graduation rates aren’t even in the mix,” Mr. Miller said. “They don’t talk about it.”
Black Student College Graduation Rates Remain Low, But Modest Progress Begins to Show