The Top 100 Interpreting the Data

By Borden, Victor M. H.; Brown, Pamela C. | Diverse Issues in Higher Education, June 1, 2006 | Go to article overview

The Top 100 Interpreting the Data


Borden, Victor M. H., Brown, Pamela C., Diverse Issues in Higher Education


Does a 5 percent annual percentage increase seem like a healthy rate of growth? At this rate, after 10 years a $100 investment yields a $63 profit. What if we are talking about people, and specifically, the number of students of color receiving bachelor's degrees in a year? In academic year 1994-1995, just over 200,000 students representing ethnic and racial minority groups graduated from U.S. colleges and universities with a four-year degree. In 2004-2005, that number reached nearly 350,000, representing an annual percentage growth rate of 5.1 percent and a 64 percent increase over the entire 10-year period. The growth rate was fastest for Hispanics, where the 6.4 percent dip led to a near doubling of degrees from, 54,000 in 1994-1995 to just over 100,000 in 2004-2005. These growth rates are especially impressive when compared with the rate of growth in bachelor's degrees conferred to White students, which increased an average of 1.3 percent annually during this same time frame.

The trends are impressive. The number of degrees conferred to minorities continue to grow and the gap in attainment between White students and students of color continues to diminish. But the gap has not disappeared. In this year's, Top 100 analyses, the first to come under the Diverse: Issues In Higher Education banner, we continue our focus on the institutions that award the most degrees to students of color. This edition focuses on bachelor's degree recipients, and we will examine the graduate degree recipients in July. The Top 100 analyses continue to feature degree production among the four racial/ethnic minority groups-African-Americans, Asian Americans, Hispanics and American Indians--identified within the national data collection system that we employ.

Source of Data & Methodology

The current analysis reports on degrees conferred during the 2004-2005 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, which, in our experience, represents the vast majority of U.S. community colleges, four-year colleges and universities. There is one notable and unfortunate exception. The National Center for Education Statistics granted institutions in the Mississippi and Louisiana Gulf Coast region a reprieve from reporting, as our friends and colleagues there were engaged in the dean-up and rebuilding effort after hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

The data for this study come from the 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 typically 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. …

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