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The Top 100: Interpreting the Data

by Black Issues

The Top 100: Interpreting the DataBy Dr. Victor M. H. BordenWith each passing year, more than 200,000 people of color, including more than 100,000 African Americans, attain a bachelor’s degree in higher education. Add to that tens of thousands who earn post-baccalaureate degrees and you can start to appreciate the increasing intellectual capital among people of color in the United States. This increase in human capital is accompanied by social, economic and political benefits that continue the nation’s progress toward a more equitable social fabric. But is the progress fast enough? This year’s publication of the Top 100 lists continues Black Issues’ efforts to keep this issue in the forefront of public policy. This year we present data on degrees awarded between July 1, 2000, and June 30, 2001.  In most ways, this year’s publication closely parallels those of the previous 10 years. We still present ordered lists of the numeric totals of degrees conferred to students of color. We feature listings for all minorities as well as for each racial/ethnic minority group. The source for these data — the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS ) — continues to gain in accuracy and timeliness. Astute readers will recall that last year’s analysis was not able to include percentage increases from the prior year, due to changes in the way data were collected by the National Center for Education Statistics.  The percentage increases are back again this year. 
This year’s analysis also includes the expanded “reporting universe” surveyed by the Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). This expansion not only reflects a change in collection procedures, it also reflects the increasing diversification of the postsecondary landscape in the United States. Postsecondary degrees now are conferred through a broader variety of institution types than in previous years. As in previous years, we still restrict our reporting to institutions located within the 50 states and the District of Columbia. 
We also continue this year the practice of reporting “preliminary” data for these lists.  With the move to a Web-based data collection system, NCES is able to obtain complete data for the majority of institutions far more quickly than in previous years. The data for every institution included in the 2000-2001 preliminary file are considered complete and accurate.  However, the file does not have data for some institutions. In our experience, the preliminary data files include complete and accurate data for virtually all four-year colleges and universities.
The institutions appearing in the published lists are ranked according to the total number of degrees awarded to minority students across all disciplines and in specific disciplines. The lists include a breakdown of 2000-01 graduates by gender. The final two columns of the lists 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, the percentage indicates the proportion of all business and management baccalaureate degree recipients at that institution who were African American. The second of these columns indicates the percentage change in that minority group’s number of graduates at that institution from last year (1999-2000).Source of Data
The data for this study come from the U.S. Department of Education. It is collected through the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) program completers survey conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). The 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.
A student’s minority status typically is determined by a self-reported response from the student during his or her college career. Students are offered a set of categories from which to choose. The number and labels of these categories differ 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: non-resident alien; Black, non-Hispanic; American Indian or Alaskan Native; Asian or Pacific Islander; Hispanic; White, non-Hispanic; and race/ethnicity unknown. The “minority” categories — Black, non-Hispanic; American Indian or Alaskan Native; Asian or Pacific Islander; and Hispanic — include only U.S. citizens or permanent residents.
Most readers probably are aware that federal government agencies are in the process of moving to a new method for collecting information on race/ethnicity. However, this method has not yet been implemented as part of these postsecondary surveys. In future years, students will be able to select any combination of racial/ethnic categories but the single category selection method will be a part of the degree completion data for at least four or five years.Structure of Tables
There are 100 institutions on the lists that combine all minority groups and disciplines by degree level. The lists for specific minority groups and for specific disciplines contain as many as 50 institutions each. One exception to this is the listing of Top 100 baccalaureate degrees conferred to African Americans by historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and traditional White institutions (TWIs). 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 also may be short because only a small number of degrees are conferred to that minority group within that discipline and/or degree level. Minority Degree Conferral Patterns
Each year in this issue, we explore some trends in the minority degree conferral patterns. This year, I’ve chosen to look at the trend across two institutional characteristics (regional location and Carnegie Classification) and one cross-institutional characteristic (field of study). For each of these characteristics, I examined the percentage increase since 1992-93 in degrees conferred to students in all minority categories combined, as well as for African Americans and Hispanics, separately. In addition to the percentage increase within each category, I also examined the percentage of degrees conferred to the aggregate and two individual minority groups.Regional Trends
The first display shows this analysis according to the eight regions of the country characterized in the IPEDS Dataset. The display shows that there has been a 50 percent increase across the nation in degrees conferred to minorities. As is often the case, the largest percentage increase occurred in the region with the smallest number of minorities: the Rocky Mountain region. The relatively large Southwest region had the second highest percentage increase, followed by the small Plains region and the extremely large Far West region. Relatively smaller increases occurred in the old population center of the United States (New England, Mid East Coast and Great Lakes). Thus the changes in minority degree conferral reflect to a large degree the shifting population trends in the country.
The regional trends for degrees conferred to African American students were mostly similar, with one notable exception. There was relatively low growth in the Far West. The Southeast Region (the “Old South”) retains the largest proportional presence of African American degree recipients, followed by the Mid East Coast.
The trend for Hispanics closely followed the overall trend for minorities, which is not surprising since the Hispanic population is the fastest growing among the general population.  Hispanic degree recipients far outnumber African American degree recipients in the Far West, Southwest and Rocky Mountain regions. Moreover, their proportions have grown faster overall than have African American degree recipients. However, their proportions as degree recipients have not grown as fast as their general population growth.Carnegie Classification Trends
The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching developed a typology of postsecondary institutions in the early 1970s. Through three sets of revisions, and with another revision scheduled for 2005, the Carnegie Classification system has become an increasingly popular mechanism for sorting institutions for study as well as for ranking and rating. The classification has five broad categories, the focus of this trend analysis. The first four of these categories sort institutions that offer a broad array of degree programs into categories according to the highest level of degree they predominantly offer. The last category includes institutions that award degrees in more focused areas (e.g., predominantly engineering or business schools). 
An examination of the trends by Carnegie Classification reveals several notable changes. First, although they still confer relatively few bachelor’s degrees, institutions categorized as “Associate,” which include all the nation’s community colleges, have experienced the greatest percentage increase in degrees conferred to all minorities, as well as to African Americans and Hispanics. In the process, the ethnic distribution of degrees conferred by these institutions has changed notably. Whereas, in 1992-93, institutions in this category conferred a relatively low proportion of degrees to students of color, they now confer by far the highest proportion to minority students. The tenfold increase in the number of bachelor’s degrees conferred to African Americans at Associate institutions compares to a less than twofold increase (70 percent) in bachelor’s degrees conferred to non-minority students by this type of institution. Thus it is clear that minorities, and especially African Americans, have been the beneficiaries of policies that have allowed these institutions to confer an increasing number and range of bachelor’s degrees. This analysis does not and cannot address the issue as to whether these degrees are as valuable as those conferred by other types of institutions.  Specialized institutions also are coming to play a more prominent role in conferring degrees to students of color in recent years.
Another finding evident in the trends by Carnegie Classification is one that has not changed over the period in consideration. Although doctoral institutions confer the highest number of degrees to total minorities and to Hispanics, African Americans attain degrees in higher numbers from institutions in the master’s category. Although not shown in this display, non-minorities continue to attain a much higher number of degrees from doctoral level institutions (about 415,000 in 2000-01) than from master’s level institutions (about 310,000 in 2000-01).Trends by Field of Study
The final display in this section illustrates changes in degree conferral patterns among minority students by broad category of degree field. One field in particular stands out in increasing popularity: Computer and Information Science. Degrees conferred in this field increase 134 percent for all minorities, 87 percent for African Americans, and 138 percent for Hispanics. Interestingly, the second largest percentage increase for Hispanics was in degrees conferred in fields related to agriculture, conservation and renewable resources. However, this area continues to attract relatively low proportions of minority students overall. Increasing interest also was shown in degrees related to business and to health fields. Hispanics, however, also showed increasing interest in the more traditional fields of liberal and performing arts and social sciences, history and psychology. Unfortunately, there appears to be relatively low growth in minority participation in engineering and technology fields, despite many efforts to attract minority students into these disciplines. A Final Word
As I approach each year’s analysis, I look forward to what interesting results might surface. We established years ago the major role of historically Black colleges and universities in contributing to educational attainment among students of color. We’ve monitored a closing but continuing gap in degree conferral rates among minorities compared to their percentages in the general population. We see in this analysis a growing regionalization of minority concentrations, with African Americans retaining their largest numbers in the Southeast and Hispanics in the West and Southwest. We also see the small but increasing role of “non-traditional” institutions in conferring bachelor’s degrees to students of color. The more we know, the more prepared we are to make informed decisions and choices about where to turn our time and attention in our continuing efforts to ensure that each individual has access to a path for reaching her or his full potential.  — Analysis performed by: Victor M. H. Borden, Ph.D., Associate Vice Chancellor, Information Management & Institutional Research, Associate Professor of Psychology, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI)



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