DataPoints: What types of credentials do Black graduates earn?


We know about gaps in enrollment and graduation rates for Black students, but what about those who do finish? What types of credentials are they receiving compared to the graduating cohort as a whole?

In 2022, public institutions in the “primarily associate” and “associate and certificate” categories awarded about 1.5 million credentials, according to an analysis of data collected in the U.S. Education Department’s Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System. Black completers accounted for 11% of the total.

By type of credential, associate degrees accounted for 56.9% of all credentials these schools awarded but only 52.9% of credentials awarded to Black completers. Certificates were 41% of all credentials but 45.5% of credentials awarded to Black completers. Bachelor’s degrees remain a relatively small proportion of the total at 2.1% of all credentials and 1.6% of those awarded to Black graduates.

There were differences by field of degree as well. General studies degrees, usually intended for transfer to four-year institutions, were the largest category at 33.4% of all degrees and 30.5% of those awarded to Black graduates. Black graduates were also relatively less represented in STEM (8.8% vs. 9.8% of all disciplines), humanities/social science (2.4% vs. 3.9%), fine arts/architecture (1.5% vs. 2.1%), and agriculture/natural resources (0.3% vs. 1.1%).

On the other hand, Black graduates were notably more likely to complete credentials in health (19.1% vs. 16.9%), business (14.6% vs. 12%) and applied trades (11.8% vs. 10.6%). Within applied trades, Black completers were more likely to be in culinary/entertainment and transportation, and less likely to be in construction, precision production or mechanical and repair technologies.

More detail, including state-level data, is available here.

About the Author

Keith Curry
Dr. Keith Curry is president and CEO of Compton College in California and serves as chair of Level UP.
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