A NEW STUDY indicates Massachusetts schools lead the nation in terms of black student access and success at four-year public universities and colleges.
The report, written by two researchers at the USC Race and Equity Center and funded by the Ford Foundation, found that Massachusetts schools as a group ranked highest on a series of metrics, including black share of enrollment, black graduation rates, and black-student-to-black-faculty ratios.
The state’s schools as a whole garnered a score of 2.81 on a statewide equity index, slightly ahead of the state of Washington at 2.59 and California at 2.46.
The average index score for all 506 public institutions included in the report was 2.02. The Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts tied with the University of California-San Diego and University of Louisville for the highest index score in the nation at 3.5. Fitchburg State, Framingham State, and UMass Boston were close behind at 3.25, followed by Salem State and Bridgewater State at 3.0, UMass Amherst and UMass Dartmouth at 2.75, and the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, Westfield State, and Worcester State at 2.5. UMass Lowell had the lowest index score of the Massachusetts schools at 1.5.
The report, written by Shaun Harper, the founder and executive director of the USC Race and Equity Center, and research associate Isaiah Simmons, examined the status of black undergraduates using four metrics: the extent to which black enrollment mirrors black representation in the state’s overall population of 18 to 24 year olds; how well black gender enrollment mirrors overall gender enrollment; how six-year graduation rates match overall graduation rates; and the black-student-to-black-faculty ratio on each campus. Data from the 2016-2017 school year was used in most of the calculations.
The authors assigned letter grades in each category and then combined them in a grade-point average, or index score. Harper and Simmons cautioned about jumping for job at high letter grades.
“Unlike most report cards, high grades (As and Bs) in this publication are not necessarily indicators of exceptional performance. Instead, they are markers of equity between black undergraduates and comparison groups,” the authors said.
Nationally, 14.6 percent of the 18-24 population is black, but blacks represent only 9.8 percent of the students at four-year public colleges and universities. In Massachusetts, 9 percent of the 18-24 population is black, and six of the 12 schools topped that percentage in terms of enrollment. UMass Dartmouth had the highest percentage of black students at 16.1 percent, followed by UMass Boston (14.8 percent), Framingham State (10.7 percent), Bridgewater State (10.1 percent), the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (10 percent), and Fitchburg State (9.1 percent).
Nationally, 39.4 percent of black students earned their degree in six years, compared to 50.4 percent of all students. In Massachusetts, three schools had higher completion rates for black students than they did for the overall student population. Fitchburg State, the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, and UMass Boston all received grades of A, while the Massachusetts College of Art and Design received an F because 53.3 percent of black students obtained their degree within six years while the percentage for the school as a whole was much higher at 72 percent.
Another study released earlier this year indicated the college graduation gap between white and black students in Massachusetts was relatively low, although it said the gap between white and Hispanic students was among the highest in the nation.
Nationally, there was one black faculty member for every 42 black students at all of the nation’s educational institutions. In Massachusetts, Westfield State, UMass Amherst, and the Massachusetts College of Art and Design all received A grades. UMass Amherst was tops with 57 black faculty members at a school with 790 black students. UMass Dartmouth fared the worst on this metric, with 13 black faculty members and 960 black students.