The top 100: interpreting the data – students of color

For the seventh consecutive year, the publishers of Black Issues
have asked me to to produce lists of the institutions that confer the
largest number of degrees to students of color in the United States.
These simple lists are presented with the objective of bringing
national attention to those institutions that contribute, in raw
numbers, to the educational attainment of members of ethnic and racial
minorities.

As the National Center for Education Statistics continues in its
effort to provide data in a more timely fashion, we faced the mixed
blessing of having a more abundant set of data to choose from than had
been available to us in years past. Consistent with last year’s
rankings, we are releasing numbers from a preliminary file that is in
the final stages of completion: data reflecting degree production
during the 1995-96 academic year. In addition, we are providing, where
available, data from an early release version of degrees conferred for
1996-97.

This edition, the first of two Top 100 BI issues, focuses on
associate and baccalaureate degrees. The upcoming BI edition will focus
on graduate and professional degrees.

As in prior years, we restrict this analysis to degrees awarded by
accredited colleges and universities in the fifty U.S. states and the
District of Columbia. The institutions are ranked according to the
total number of degrees awarded to minority students across all
disciplines and in specific disciplines. Excluded from this analysis
are colleges and universities in Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, and
other commonwealths and protectorates, as well as postsecondary
institutions within the fifty states and Washington, D.C., that are not
accredited at the college level by an agency recognized by the United
States Secretary of Education.

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 Office of
Educational Research and Improvement (OERI). 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 the National Center for
Educational Statistics (NCES). CIP codes provide a common set of
categories allowing comparisons across all colleges and universities.

A student’s minority 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 of degrees to the
federal government, institutions must “map” their categories to the
standard federal categories: nonresident 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.

Structure of Tables

There are one hundred institutions on the lists that combine all
the minority groups by degree level. The lists for specific minority
groups and for specific disciplines contain as many as fifty
institutions each. 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 forty-eighth ranked slot, then the
list includes all of them, bringing the total number of institutions
listed to fifty-two. If, however, ten institutions are tied in the
forty-eighth rank, all are excluded and the list falls short at
forty-seven.

A specific list may also be short because only a small number of
degrees are conferred to that minority group within that discipline
and/or degree level. For example, the list pertaining to baccalaureate
degrees in communications awarded to Native American students includes
only fifteen institutions.. We limited the lists to include only
institutions that awarded at least three degrees in each category.

Within each listing category (combination of minority group and
discipline), the colleges and universities are ranked from high to low
according to the total number of degrees conferred during the 1995-96
academic year. Each list entry includes the institution’s name; state
of location; number of degrees conferred to men, women, and overall
total (the ranking criterion); a percent of graduates figure; and the
total number of degrees conferred in 1996-97, if available.

The percent of graduates figure indicates how the number of
minority 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. If a particular college awarded fifty bachelors of
business administration degrees and five recipients were African
American, then the percent figure would be 10.0. In other words, the
percentage shown is indicative of the minority group representation in
that particular category.

Comparing HBCUs and TWIs

As with last year’s analysis, I am providing additional tables that
focus on degree production at historically Black colleges and
universities (HBCUs) compared to production at traditionally White
institutions (TWIs). The summary table shows that over the last five
years, baccalaureate degree production has increased at an average
annual rate of 5.6 percent. However, the rate of increase is higher
among the HBCUs compared to other institutions.

In another table, the Top 100 institutions that confer
baccalaureate degrees to African American are split into separate
tables for the HBCU and TWI institutions in the overall list. The first
column of each table reminds the reader how each institution ranks
overall. It is immediately notable from these tables that nine out of
the leading ten institutions, and sixteen out of the top twenty, are in
the HBCu group, even though the overall list contains only forty0two
HBCUs.

The HBCU and TWi Top 100 charts for African Americans (pages 42-43)
show the trend of degrees conferred by these institutions for the years
1992-93 through 1996-97. The last year is based on early release data
and so a number of institutions do not have data available in this
column. The five year trend data are followed by a column that shows
the average number of degrees awarded over the five year period and an
average annual percentage change column. These two columns are based on
available data. That is, for institutions missing the 1996-97 data, the
average and average annual percent change figures are based on only
four years: 1992-93 through 1995-96.

A Final Word

It is hard to say what makes such a simple analysis so compelling.
We have never claimed that the production of degrees relates directly
to the quality of an education or the usefulness of a degree to the
individual recipient.

One question that is frequently raised by those who study these
lists is, doesn’t the number of degrees conferred by an institution
relate more to the size of an institution than to its effectiveness in
contributing to the lives of those who attend? Not necessarily. This
year’s ranking show, once again, that size isn’t everything. Some
relatively small institutions appear unexpectedly on lists containing
mostly large institutions. And many relatively large institutions do
not confer a number of degrees commensurate with their size.

What is perhaps most remarkable about the Top 100 is that so many
institutions care about where they show up in these lists. I know this
from the many calls I receive each year raising concerns about the
accuracy of the data. In the vast majority of cases, the accuracy of
the data is determined by the responding institution. Several college
and university representatives have told me that the publication of
these lists has made them examine more closely their degree production
progress among students of color, as well as the care with which they
report the data to the Department of Education.

In one way or another, this report focuses attention on exactly how
many traditionally under-represented individuals receive degrees from
colleges and universities in the United States, and how the figures
compare nationally.

Dr. Borden is an assistant professor of psychology, and the director
of information management and institutional research at Indiana
University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI).

COPYRIGHT 1998 Cox, Matthews & Associates



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