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The Top 100: Interpreting the Data

The Top 100: Interpreting the Data

Eight years and running. Since 1992, I have provided Black Issues with a set of lists enumerating the colleges and universities that have conferred the highest number of degrees to students of color. The first Top 100 issue examined degree production during the 1988-89 academic year. In this year’s issue, we focus on the 1996-97 academic year degree recipients. Although not a “final release,” the 1996-97 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 Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education, and that operate within the 50 states or the District of Columbia. As in past years, this special report focuses on baccalaureate degrees. A forthcoming issue of Black Issues will focus on graduate and professional degrees.
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 1996-97 graduates by gender. Also included are the final degree counts from the 1995-96 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 “average annual percentage change” column shows the percentage increase in the number of degrees awarded in that category averaged over the past two years (that is, between 1994-95 and 1996-97).

Source of Data
The data for this study come from the United States Department of Education. They are collected through the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) program completers survey, which is 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 racial 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: 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.
Some readers may know that the U.S. Department of Education is in the process of changing the way in which race/ethnicity is reported by institutions. In future years, students will be able to select any combination of racial/ethnic categories. In other words, a student can check off that she is both African American and Asian American, or that she is White and Hispanic. (See Black Issues Nov. 27, 1998) These changes will not be reflected in the available degree completions data for at least four or five years.

Structure of Tables
There are 100 institutions on the lists that combine all minority groups and disciplines by degree level. The lists for specific minority groups and for specific disciplines contain as many as 50 institutions each. One exception to this is the listing of Top 100 baccalaureate degrees conferred to African Americans by historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and traditionally White institutions (TWIs). 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 48th ranked slot, then the list includes all of them, bringing the total number of institutions listed to 52. If, however, 10 institutions are tied in the 48th rank, all are excluded and so the list falls short at 47. 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.

Comparing HBCUs and TWIs
Ever since we began publishing these data, we noted the significant role that HBCUs play in conferring degrees to African American students. We continue to follow the five-year trend in African American degree conferrals at HBCUs compared to TWIs. It appears that slightly fewer African Americans received associate’s degrees and bachelor’s degrees from HBCUs in 1996-97 compared to in 1995-96. At the same time, associates and bachelor’s degree awards increased at TWIs. However, HBCUs have increased at a faster rate the number of master’s and professional degrees awarded to African Americans. Perhaps, most importantly, the number of overall degrees, and especially higher level degrees, conferred to African Americans at both HBCUs and TWIs continues to climb steadily.
In another table, the Top 100 institutions in conferring baccalaureate degrees to African Americans 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 the nine out of the top 10 ranked institutions, and 16 out of the top 20 are in the HBCU group, even though the overall list contains only 41 HBCUs.

A Final Word
Of all the analyses I do throughout the year, these Top 100 lists are probably the simplest and yet most influential. For those of you who have contacted me, you know that I work diligently to ensure that each and every institution is represented fairly. As an administrator at a large public university, I understand how frustrating it can be to induce change and then have to wait six or more years to see these changes impact graduation numbers. But having done these analyses for eight years, and with no end in sight (I have at least 23 years until retirement and my youngest won’t graduate college until at least 2012), I can appreciate that eight years is not all that long. Since 1992, the total number of degrees conferred at U.S. institutions has increased by about 25 percent. During this same time period, the number of degrees conferred to minorities has almost doubled! 

—Dr. Victor M. H. Borden
director, Information Management and Institutional Research, and
assistant professor of psychology,
Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis

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