From a shared link going around Facebook, I’ve come across some interesting and worrying data from the Office of Institutional Research—data on the graduation and retention rates here at Wesleyan. On the website, it gives data for the “six-year graduation rates of the fall 2007, first-time, full-time, degree-seeking freshmen cohort.” This refers to the group of freshmen entering Wesleyan in fall 2007, making them what we would call the “Class of 2011.”
Here’s some of the data: Overall, with this cohort, there is a 92% graduation rate (including everyone), with 92% for both men and women when sliced in that fashion. Here is data broken down by race straight from the website:
American Indian or Alaskan Native students: n/a
Asian students: 91%
Black or African American students: 75%
Hispanic students: 95%
Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander students: n/a
Non-resident Alien (International) students: 96%
White students: 92%
Students of two or more races: 95%
Students of unknown race/ethnicity: 89%
I hope you can see the one grad rate that is substantially lower than the rest—black or African American students graduate at a rate of 75% from Wesleyan, compared to an overall average of 92% for this cohort.
One thing to also note is that the data on this website looks at the graduation rates for this class within six years of arriving at Wes—so there are people included in this data that did not graduate in 2011 but did graduate either in 2012 or 2013, as this covers a six year period, but still is limited to the new cohort that came into Wes in the fall of 2007. What this means is that people who arrived new to Wes in the fall of 2007 and graduated within six years are included within this data.
With that, I dug a bit more, and was directed to data on the National Center for Education Statistics to try and slice this data a bit more finely.
The data I focused on was the most recent data available, which was for the cohort of freshmen students entering Wesleyan in the year 2006, making this what we would commonly refer to as the “Class of 2010.” Here, there was data on graduation rates for students finishing within four years, five years, as well as six years to attain a Bachelor’s degree. (Thus this data was released in 2012, understandably.) This data may be a year older than the basic data we can find on the Office of Institutional Research website, but it allows us to break down the data much more.
Below are two shots of the data which I will then explain to you—with some important parts highlighted:
The numbers here in this chart, although a bit more general than the chart that will follow, are both interesting and worth noting. The first blue column, under “Revised cohort,” tells you the number of students in this 2006 cohort (Class of 2011) broken down by ethnicity. I don’t know about you, but for me, the actual numbers really puts the percentages we use to showcase the “diversity” of Wesleyan into perspective.
There are 450 white students in this cohort, compared to 70 Hispanic/Latin@ students, 49 Asians, 34 black or African Americans, 39 students of two or more races, and there are a grand total of 0 American Indian/Alaska Native or Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander students. You can see for yourself how that can be broken down by gender.
The second blue box highlighted column gives you the number of students from each of these groups that graduated within 150% of the normal time, which makes it the number of students that graduate within six years (“normal” time to graduate would be four years). The final red column basically just gives you the percentages/graduation rate of this cohort within the six-year period.
So the graduation rate of this 2006 cohort is an overall percentage of 91%, and you can see for yourself how it is broken down by gender, then race. Just to sample and compare some of these numbers for you, comparing genders by race:
- Hispanic/Latino men graduated at a rate of 97%, compared to 89% for Hispanic/Latina women.
- Asian men graduated at a rate of 83%, compared to 96% for Asian women.
- Black or African American men graduated at a rate of 77%, compared to 81% for black or African American women.
- White men graduated at a rate of 92%, compared to 90% for white women.
- Men of two or more races graduated at a rate of 87%, compared to 83% of women.
If we just look at men, with a total graduation rate of 91%, Hispanic/Latino men have the highest rate, at 97%, while black or African American men have the lowest rate, at 77%. With women there is a overall graduation rate of 90%, and Asian women hold the highest rate, with 96%, and black and African American women have the lowest rate, at 81%.
The data that follows essentially is the same information, but it also tells you the number of students in these groups that completed their degrees within four (or fewer) years, within five years, or within six years. This allows us to look at the “normal” four-year graduation rate.
You can see for yourself, in the yellow boxed columns, the number of students that graduated within four years (second yellow box from the left), as well as the percentage of students graduating in four years (third yellow box). The green boxed columns are essentially the same data that we saw earlier, but highlighted so you can compare the four-year rate vs. the six-year rate.
When we look at the graduation rate for four years, the numbers change. The total rate of students graduating within the “normal” four years drops from 91% to 87%, as does all of the subsequent groups divided by race. (FYI, “Nonresident alien” refers to international students.)
Here I’ve compared the data from the four-year rate and the six-year rate:
- 93% of Hispanic/Latin@ students graduate in six years, compared to 90% in four years.
- 90% of Asian students graduate in six years, compared to 86% in four years.
- 79% of black or or African American students graduate in six years, compared to 76% in four years.
- 92% of white students graduate in six years, compared to 89% in four years.
- 85% of students of two or more races graduate within six years, compared to 74% in four years.
Thinking about just the four year graduation rate, students of two or more races graduate at the lowest rate, 74%, but that number jumps to 85% in the six year window. Within that six year window, black and African American students graduate at the lowest rate, at 79%. We can slice and compare these numbers in many more ways—and we can even delve into data from earlier cohorts, but even just from this cohort’s data one thing is clear: there are students in our community that are graduating at a much lower rate than others.
This data begs me to ask a few questions. What are we doing wrong here at Wesleyan? Why are we failing all these students? How dare we call ourselves “Diversity University” with these numbers? I personally don’t have all the answers to these—but I’m sure many of you in the community will have some ideas. Please chime in in the comments with your thoughts.
Clearly, many students are not getting the support they deserve here at Wesleyan. As I mentioned earlier, what’s also shocking to me about this data is not only these graduation rates, but the actual numbers of students from different backgrounds that make up our campus. I guess I knew that all along with the percentages Wesleyan offers to us, but the actual numbers puts it into a very different perspective.
For those of us that were at the Diversity University forum last year, we’ve definitely heard some of the issues Wesleyan students experience that they shouldn’t have to—and we cannot let that conversation die. We have to come together as a campus, as a community, consistently and continuously, and not just wait for another high-profile event to buzz us into action. We’re better than that.
. . .
Here are some links if you want to look at the data yourself: