Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

The Top 100: Interpreting the Data

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

The Top 100: Interpreting the Data

Article excerpt

The stakes seem to get larger every year. Never before in U.S. history has the quality of our lives as individuals, as communities, and as a society, depended more on the education of the populace. College degrees have replaced the high school diploma as the ticket for entry (or sustained participation) in the middle class. The technology explosion has brought into our lives an overabundance of information, which provides as many opportunities for growth as for decline. As the U.S. Supreme Court considers landmark cases that will affect for years the inclusiveness of our higher education institutions, we celebrate through this analysis, the hundreds of thousands of students of color who each year join the college-educated ranks of their communities. More so than ever, we must be vigilant to watch the trends that emerge from these data.

Current trends are mostly positive. Degrees conferred to minorities continue to grow and the gap in attainment between White students and students of color continues to lessen, albeit at a rate too slow to imagine the complete closure of the gap anytime in the foreseeable future. Historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) continue to play a central role in graduating students of color, but their stable enrollment and graduation trends stand in contrast to other growing sectors of higher education.

SOURCE OF DATA

This year's Top 100 edition focuses on degrees conferred during the 2001-2002 academic year. As in past years, this is not a "final release" from the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). The preliminary data are complete and accurate for those institutions included in the analysis. In our experience, the preliminary data files include complete and accurate data for most community colleges, four-year colleges and universities.

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 completer's survey conducted by the 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.

The lists included in this analysis are based on students' racial or ethnic status. This status is determined typically 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.

The single category selection method will continue to be a part of the degree completion data for at least a few more years. While the federal government agencies are in the process of moving to a new method for collecting information on race/ethnicity, the new method has not yet been implemented as part of these postsecondary surveys.

STRUCTURE OF TABLES

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 2001-2002 graduates by gender. The final two columns of the lists show two percentages. …

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