Message to our Readers

Higher Education News and Jobs


by Victor M. H. Borden, Ph.D.

Over the past five years, the number of bachelor’s degrees conferred to African-Americans by proprietary (privatefor- profit) institutions increased by 150 percent or an average annual rate of 26 percent. In 2006-07, proprietary institutions accounted for fewer than one in 10 (7.2 percent) bachelor’s degrees conferred to African-Americans. Both of these assertions are true but what do they tell you? It is an extremely high growth rate but still a relatively small proportion of the overall totals. Throughout my professional life as a data provider and research analyst, I have frequently been reminded that, while data is often revealing, what it conceals or obscures is often more enlightening. This brings up yet another old saw that teachers of statistics use to pique student interest in the subject: Politicians use statistics the way a drunk uses a lamp post — more for support than enlightenment.

This may seem like an odd way to start off our annual analysis of the Top 100 degrees conferred to students of color. But it brings up an important point regarding how such lists and numbers can or should be used. We justify these listings on the basis of their simplicity and objective reality (noting that there are a few rare recorded instances of human error in the collection and reporting of this information). That being said, we offer caveats such as how such numerical rankings favor larger, and therefore, often public, institutions. To compensate, we introduced in last year’s edition a set of lists that were indexed to institutions size, which we continue in this year’s publication.

As you read through the remainder of this article and the tables and lists that follow, be critical. Not of Diverse or of me but rather of the preliminary conclusions and observations that the numbers elicit from you.


The tables in this edition of the Top 100 analysis reflect degrees conferred during the 2006-2007 academic year as of mid March 2008 by the vast majority of U.S. postsecondary institutions to the Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) through the Completions Survey of the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data Set (IPEDS). These preliminary data are complete and accurate for those institutions included in the analysis, which represents the vast majority of U.S. community colleges and four-year colleges and universities.

The IPEDS Completion Survey requests data on the number of degrees and other formal awards conferred in academic, vocational and continuing professional education programs. Institutions report their data according to the Classification of Instructional Program (CIP) codes developed by NCES. CIP codes provide a common set of categories allowing comparisons across all colleges and universities.

Racial/ethnic identity is based on students’ self-reports determined typically by a response from the student during his or her college career. Students are offered a set of categories from which to choose that differs from one institution to another. However, when reporting enrollment or degrees to the federal government, institutions must “map” their categories to the standard federal categories: U.S. citizens or permanent residents are categorized as African- American and non-Hispanic, American Indian or Alaskan Native, Asian or Pacific Islander, Hispanic, White and non-Hispanic, and race/ethnicity unknown. All non-U.S. citizens who are not permanent residents are categorized as non-resident alien, regardless of their race/ethnicity.

As usual, we restrict our analysis to institutions located in the 50 United States and Washington, D.C. We, therefore, exclude institutions from U.S. territories and protectorates, including Puerto Rico, Guam, Formosa, etc., as well as U.S. military service schools. We also include only those institutions that are eligible for Title IV federal funding by virtue of being accredited by a regional or specialized agency that is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.

The institutions appearing in the published lists are ranked according to the total number of degrees awarded to minority students across all disciplines as well as in specific disciplines. Each list provides the total for the prior year (2005-06), followed by the current year (2006-07) counts for males, females and totals. The final two columns show two percentages. The first percentage indicates how the number of the minority category degree recipients compares to all degree recipients at that institution within that discipline. For example, in the listing of baccalaureates conferred to African-Americans in business and management, this first percentage column indicates the proportion of all business and management baccalaureate degree recipients at that institution who were African-American. The second percentage column indicates the percentage change in that minority groups’ number of graduates at that institution from the prior year.

The lists containing total degrees for each and all minority groups include 100 institutions. The lists for specific disciplines contain typically, but not always, 50 institutions each. A given list may have slightly fewer or more institutions because of ties in the rankings. For example, if there are four institutions that fall into the 48th ranked slot, then the list includes all of them, bringing the total number of institutions listed to 52. If, however, 10 institutions are tied in the 48th rank, all are excluded, and so the list falls short at 47. A specific list may also be short because only a small number of degrees are conferred to that minority group within that discipline and/or degree level.

Trends by Institutional Selectivity and Sector

In this year’s trend analysis, we focus on trends in the representation of students of color according to the selectivity of admissions and whether the institution falls into the public, private-nonprofit or proprietary (private-for-profit) sector. Selectivity was determined according to the percentage of traditional first-time-in-college applicants who are offered admission. Based on an initial analysis, we include as “highly selective” an institution that admits fewer than one of three applicants. An institution was deemed to have low selectivity if it admitted more than 85 percent of applicants. All other institutions (those admitting between 33 and 85 percent of applicants) were included in the “moderately selective” category.

Of the roughly 2,200 institutions included in this trend analysis, 100 (4 percent) fall into the highly selective category. These 100 institutions account for 6 percent of all bachelor’s degrees conferred in 2006-07. Roughly 780 institutions (35 percent) fall into the “low selectivity” category and they account for 18 percent of all bachelor’s degrees conferred. The remaining 1,375 or so institutions (61 percent) account for 76 percent of all bachelor’s degrees that were conferred in 2006-07.

Just over one-quarter (27 percent) of institutions in this trend analysis are in the public sector, but these typically large colleges and universities account for more than three-fifths (63 percent) of all bachelor’s degrees conferred. In contrast, the private, nonprofit sector includes over one half (57 percent) of all institutions but accounts for less than one-third (32 percent) of bachelor’s degrees conferred. Finally, the relatively small proprietary sector accounts for one of six (17 percent) institutions and fewer than one in 20 degrees (4 percent).

Five detailed trend tables are provided, reflecting first the total for all students and then details for each of the four racial/ethnic minority groups (African-Americans, Hispanic, Native Americans and Asian Americans, shown below). Each table shows a five-year trend in bachelor’s degrees conferred by the three levels of selectivity, within each of the three sectors, and then for the nine combinations of selectivity and sector. For the most recent year, both the total and percent of total are shown. A final column shows the average annual percentage increase over the five-year period.

The first table (total students, available only online), reveals a 4.4 percent average annual percentage increase in bachelor’s degrees conferred between 2002-03 and 2006- 07. Growth was higher among moderately selective institutions than among both highly selective and relatively open-admissions institutions. The public and private, for-profit sectors grew at slightly below the overall rate and the proprietary sector had the highest percentage growth, although it remains a relatively small contributor to overall numbers of degrees conferred. Within the more detailed combinations of selectivity and sector, we see that the most selective proprietary institutions had the largest percentage increases but represent the lower raw numbers of degrees (less than 0.5 percent of the total and so rounding to 0 percent). In addition, two trend lines were negative: conferrals among highly selective, public universities and lowly selective private, nonprofit institutions declined by an average of 2.5 percent per year.

Although there was moderate growth in degrees conferred by highly selective institutions (6 percent), the trend in this sector for African-Americans was negative (an average of 2.5 percent annual decrease). However, this trend is marked by a banner year in 2002-03, followed by two years of sharp decline and then two years of strong increases. Among the other racial ethnic groups, percentage increases in the highly selective category surpassed the overall rate for Native Americans and Asian Americans.

There are lots of interesting patterns in these tables, some of which are summarized in a final table that presents three views of representation focusing on three specific types of institutions: the highly selective private- nonprofit, the moderately selective public, and proprietary institutions regardless of selectivity (available only online).

The first section of this final table shows the distribution by race/ethnicity across all institutions and within each of these three prototypes. The first row indicates that African-Americans represented 9 percent of all students, Hispanics and Asian Americans 7 percent and Native Americans 0.7 percent. Institutions in the “highly selective, privatenonprofit” category included an overrepresentation of Asian Americans but underrepresented the three other racial/ethnic minority groups and especially African-Americans. Representation across the large “moderately selective, public” category was identical to the overall representation levels with slight (one percentage point) underrepresentation among African-Americans. Finally, African-Americans and Hispanics are notably overrepresented and Asian Americans underrepresented among the relatively small proprietary sector.

The second view of representation (the middle section of this summary table) shows the average annual percentage change overall and for each racial/ethnic group within each of the three prototype institutional categories. The percentage decline in bachelor’s degrees conferred to African- Americans at highly selective private, nonprofit institutions stands out among the growth rates for all other groups, as does the relatively high growth rate for African- Americans within the proprietary sector.

The third view of representation shown in the last three rows of this table focuses on the percentage of each racial/ethnic group that received a bachelor’s degree from each of these three types of institutions. Overall, exactly one half of all students receive a bachelor’s degree from a moderately selective, public institution and 4 percent are represented in each of the “highly selective, private-nonprofit” and “proprietary” categories. The percentage of all African-American bachelor’s degree recipients who fall into these first two categories is just one percentage point lower than this overall benchmark and again we see the overrepresentation of African-Americans in the proprietary sector. For both Hispanics and Native Americans, there is slight overrepresentation among the large “moderately selective, public” and small “proprietary” sectors. Asian Americans exhibit a notably different pattern according to this view, with significant overrepresentation in both the “highly selective, private-nonprofit” and the “moderately selective, public” categories and slight underrepresentation in the proprietary sector.

At the beginning of this article, I suggested that you review critically the information presented throughout this special edition of Diverse. Each year, I receive a modest number of e-mail messages and calls regarding a particular number for a particular school on a particular list. While I don’t expect the volume of such messages to decrease, I would enjoy seeing more questions, suggestions and ideas about how this analysis and these lists can be used to promote efforts to increase educational achievement levels of students of color.

— Dr. Victor M. H. Borden is associate vice president and associate professor at Indiana University.

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