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Top 100 – Undergraduate Degree Producers

We are coming to the end of an era! For many years we have been stating that the categories of race/ethnicity used in representing degree attainment will soon be changed. The Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics has begun the process to change the structure of race/ethnicity categories to align with the U.S. Census Bureau methods for collecting racial/ethnic data (that is, including a separate yes/no question regarding Hispanic origins and then multiple choices of racial/ethnic group allowing the respondent to choose “all that apply”). The data reported in this year’s editions of the Top 100 series represent the last time the old categories will be in place, sort of. Use of the new race/ethnicity categories will be mandatory in 2011 for reporting degree completions. However, starting this past year and continuing through next, use of the new categories was optional.

So how will things look different? At first, they will not, at least on the surface. We will be able to continue reporting numbers within the same categories: African-American, Asian American, Hispanic and Native American. However, the content of the categories will begin to differ, and in two years we will be able to introduce a new category: two or more races.

Unfortunately, beneath the surface there will be changes that make any trend comparisons suspect. One category, Hispanic, should be relatively unaffected. According to the reporting rules issued by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget, anyone who responds “yes” to the question regarding Hispanic origins will be reported as Hispanic. Beyond that, only students who choose a single race/ethnicity will be counted under that category and everyone who chooses more than one will be counted under the “two or more races” category. By this logic, Barack Obama and Tiger Woods will no longer be African- American (that is, if they report their mixed lineage as such).

We are beginning to see research literature emerge on this change, suggesting that there will be noticeable shifts in such statistics as academic performance gaps that are entirely due to the reporting change and not to any actual change in performance levels.

After describing the method and formats used in the Top 100 tables, we will turn our attention to a new look at what kind of institutions are conferring these degrees. Specifically, we’ll consider how institutions that rank high in a different magazine’s annual ratings — the U.S. News & World Report “Best Colleges” rankings — have contributed to degree production among students of color in recent years.


The tables in this edition of the Top 100 analysis reflect bachelor’s degrees conferred during the 2007-2008 academic year that have been reported as of mid-March 2009 by 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, fouryear colleges and universities.

The IPEDS Completions 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.

As usual, we restrict our analysis to Title IV-eligible and DOE-accredited institutions located in the 50 United States and the District of Columbia. We, therefore, exclude institutions from U.S. territories and protectorates, including Puerto Rico, as well as U.S. military service schools.

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 (2006-2007), followed by the current year (2007- 2008) counts for males, females and total. 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. 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, found online at, contain typically, but not always, 50 institutions each. A given list may have slightly fewer or more institutions because of ties in the rankings.

Degree Conferrals and U.S. News Rankings

Each year in mid-August, U.S. News & World Report releases a new edition of its “America’s Best Colleges” rankings. Among the various rankings included in this issue, two categories tend to get the most attention: national universities, topped by the likes of Harvard, Princeton and Yale universities; and liberal arts colleges, topped this past year by Amherst, Williams and Swarthmore.

Both of these rankings divide institutions into tiers. Institutions in the top two tiers are ranked numerically with those in the remaining tiers listed alphabetically. The factors used to array institutions include a reputation score derived through a survey of college presidents, academic officers and admissions officers, as well as more objective measures of student selectivity, class size, student persistence and financial resources.

The information presented in this analysis examines current levels and growth over the last 15 years in degree conferrals within the various race/ethnicity categories among institutions grouped into different ranking levels. For the purposes of this analysis, we consider the 20 institutions that compose the top 10 of both the national university and liberal arts college rankings released in August 2008. Our second “level” group is the remaining Tier 1 institutions; that is, those placing between ranks 11 and 50. Tier 2 comprises our third group, with the several hundred institutions in Tiers 3 and 4 combined represented in the next level.

The “other four-year” group, our last level group, consists primarily of comprehensive and special purpose universities that are ranked within the U.S. News regional master’s and bachelor’s universities rankings.

The categorization of institutions in this analysis is based entirely on where they placed in the 2008 published rankings. However, we consider the degree conferral numbers of these institutions in both the most recent year and in 1993. There are a significant number of institutions in the ‘other’ category that were not around during the earlier time period. This is one reason more growth is evident in the “other four-year” category than in any of the tiered institutions. Although not represented in the table below, we also observe a phenomenal percentage increase in the two-year category. In 1993, very few associate colleges offered bachelor’s degrees. In recent years, we have pointed out on several occasions that bachelor’s degree production among traditional “associate” institutions (e.g., community colleges), although still small numerically, has been growing faster than within any other sector. Moreover, this growth has been skewed toward minority students.

The analysis shows that minority representation among bachelor’s degree recipients at the 20 “Top 10” institutions (that is, top 10 national universities and top 10 liberal arts colleges) was and continues to be higher than at the remainder of Tier 1 and all of Tier 2 institutions. Minority representation exceeds the level of the Top 10 institutions in Tiers 3 and 4 and in the other four-year and associate institutions. It is also interesting to note that percentage increases in degree conferrals is higher among the minority categories at each and every type of institution. At the Top 10 institutions, non-minority bachelor’s degree conferrals actually declined by 3 percent.

Overall, this analysis suggests that the highest-ranked institutions have made progress in increasing minority representation among their bachelor’s degree recipients, although it is fair to question whether this represents sufficient progress. There is also evidence of some notable increase in Native American and Hispanic representation in the highest-ranked group, as well as some softness in African-American and Native American representation in the second highest level group (“Rest of Tier 1”). In closing, we note that despite these gains, minority representation is lower among higher ranked institutions than at lower ranked institutions as well as compared to the general population demographics of the nation.

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