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First-of-Its-Kind ACE Report Finds MSI Completion Rates Higher Than Federal Data Indicate

July 19, 2017


Minority serving institutions (MSIs) play a critical role in American society, providing access to postsecondary education for millions of students of color who come from disadvantaged backgrounds. As communities in the United States become more diverse and the number of MSIs increase, it is imperative that the higher education field understands how MSIs serve the students they enroll.

A paper released today by the American Council on Education’s (ACE) Center for Policy Research and Strategy (CPRS), Pulling Back the Curtain: Enrollment and Outcomes at Minority Serving Institutions, seeks to do just that by utilizing data from the National Student Clearinghouse (NSC) to examine enrollment and outcomes at MSIs, painting a more complete picture of the contributions MSIs make to the communities they serve.

The analysis in this first-of-its-kind report uses NSC data to examine how students who started college at an MSI in 2007 moved through higher education. NSC data capture student enrollment profiles and outcomes beyond what is available through U.S. Department of Education data such as federal graduation rates.

In addition to capturing more students than the federal data, NSC data follow students throughout their educational journeys, including when they change institutions. By doing so, the authors determined that completion rates for MSIs are higher than federal graduation rates suggest, in some cases substantially so.

Pulling Back the Curtain concludes that this is especially true for exclusively full-time students, the most comparable student population when looking side-by-side at NSC completion data and the federal graduation rate.

“As our nation strives to provide equitable access to higher education, and as the American workforce increasingly requires a postsecondary credential, MSIs will continue to play an important role in ensuring the United States’ economic competitiveness,” said Lorelle Espinosa, assistant vice president, CPRS. “We hope that this paper will help education leaders, policymakers and policy influencers to understand the critical importance of MSIs.”

Among the key findings:

  • NSC data reveal a 43 percent total completion rate for public four-year Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), which increased to nearly 62 percent for students who enrolled exclusively full time, compared to a federal graduation rate of 34.1 percent;

  • NSC data show a completion rate of 66.7 percent, compared to a federal graduation rate of 43.9 percent, for exclusively full-time students at private four-year HBCUs;

  • The NSC completion rate for exclusively full-time students at public four-year Predominantly Black Institutions was nearly 52 percent compared to a federal graduation rate of 16.6 percent;

  • The completion rate for exclusively full-time students at public two-year Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs) was 40.3 percent using NSC data, compared to the federal graduation rate of 25.5 percent. The NSC total completion rate for public four-year HSIs was approximately 50 percent and 74.1 percent for exclusively full-time students, compared to a federal graduation rate of 42.7 percent; and

  • The completion rate for exclusively full-time students at public four-year Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institutions was nearly 88 percent according to NSC data, compared to a federal graduation rate of 66.2 percent.

In addition to the findings of the study, the paper also features essays written by scholars who study MSIs, providing insight into what sets MSIs apart and how they serve students in ways that are unique and exemplary.

MEDIA CONTACT: Kelli Meyer ▪ 202-939-9328 ▪


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