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The Top 100: Interpreting the Data

The Top 100: Interpreting the Data

For the ninth consecutive year, we present to you one of the simplest and most compelling
 rankings of higher education data: listings of the institutions that confer the most postsecondary degrees to students of color. As with any ranking publication, we have our critics, many of whom bring up valid points about the limitations and potential misuse of such rankings.
Do our lists of quantity downplay important questions about quality? Are we simply interested in the number of new degree-credentialed students of color and not the outcomes and consequences of their educations?
Of course, we are interested in both quantity and quality. At this point in our history, however, degree attainment is the single best standard for educational attainment. And the national data are clear: the higher the degree, the higher the earnings potential.

In this year’s issue, we focus on 1997-‘98 academic year degree recipients. Although not a “final release,” the 1997-‘98 data are virtually complete for the group of institutions that we include in our analysis: institutions accredited at the college level by an agency or association recognized by the U.S. Department of Education, that operate within the 50 states or the District of Columbia. 
As in past years, this issue focuses on baccalaureate degrees. The next edition of Black Issues will focus on graduate and professional degrees, and a sister publication, Community College Week, will focus on associate’s degrees and one- and two-year certificates. 
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 1997-‘98 graduates by gender. Also included are the final degree counts from the 1996-‘97 official release.
The final two columns of the lists present two percentages. The “percent of graduates” column 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 percent indicates the proportion of all business and management baccalaureate degree recipients at that institution who were African American. The “percentage change” column shows the percentage increase in the number of degrees awarded in that category between 1996-97 and 1997-98.

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