8 Ways to Get a College Degree

If you look at college graduation rates through the lens of race, it doesn’t look good for black students.

Last month, the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center released data that gave me pause. As reported in Inside Higher Ed, the center evaluated data from students who had entered college in the fall of 2010. The data represents students attending full-time or part-time, at four-year and two-year schools.

Although, as a whole, more students graduated with a degree or credential within six years—54.8%—than did not, teasing apart the races tells a less optimistic story.

  • Of all racial groups, Asian students are most likely to complete a course of study and earn a degree, at a rate of 63.2%.
  • White students are a close second, finishing at a rate of 62%.
  • Hispanic students are a distant third at 45.8%.
  • Black students are last, finishing at a rate of 38%.


Going Further Into the Data


Even success after transferring from a community college is colored by race. The report shows that, again, more Asian students (25%) will go on to complete their degrees, whereas only one in 12 black students will do so.

I wish I could say that black students who attend historically black colleges graduate at higher rates, but they do not. Spelman, which is all female, has the highest graduation rate at 67%, according to U.S. News & World Report; but Bethune-Cookman, which was included in a list of HBCUs with the highest graduation rates, has a rate of 27.5%.

I wondered about disaggregating the data further; what about black students who participate in programs like Oliver Scholars, A Better Chance, or the Meyerhoff Scholars? Are black immigrants more likely to graduate than black Americans or vice versa? Among black students, do graduation rates improve as income rises?


8 Ways to Succeed


What is it that makes some students persist while others fall by the wayside? The Hechinger Report recently spoke with experts in this area, including Freeman Hrabowski, president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

Here are their eight tips to help black and Latino college students stay the course:


  1. Find a group of students to study with to master the material—or form your own.
  2. If you get the opportunity, sign up to be a tutor.
  3. Don’t be too disturbed by those who are surprised by your academic success.
  4. Pursuing a STEM degree? Don’t skip the introductory science courses—no matter how well you did in your high school AP classes.
  5. Go to your professors’ office hours regularly—before you need help.
  6. Get to class before the professor, sit in the front row with other students in your study group, and ask plenty of questions.
  7. Seek out opportunities to work in the classroom as a teaching assistant.
  8. Didn’t get an A? Don’t think that all is lost.


To read more, go to the Hechinger Report.