Tufts by Numbers: Graduation inequalities

Whether in mere weeks or many many years, the days of test-taking, essay-writing and finals will end for each and every Tufts student. Graduation will come, and we’ll put grades behind us. This week, in anticipation for this big, exciting, scary day, I took a look at graduation rates at Tufts and within Massachusetts.

Each year, Tufts publishes the four-year and six-year graduation rates for the graduating class, including breakdowns that examine the rates by gender, race and ethnicity. These statistics are also available on a state-wide and national scale. Examining these graduation rates, I explored how graduation rates differ within Tufts and between Tufts and the rest of the nation.

At Tufts, the overall four-year graduation rate has hovered right around 87 percent for the past 10 years and the six-year graduation rate has stayed around 93 percent. In the gender breakdown, female students are consistently at least one percent more likely to graduate than male students. In the race and ethnic group break downs, the distinctions are a little larger. White and Asian/Asian-American students have had six-year graduation rates at Tufts above 90 percent for the past decade. However, Hispanic/Latino students and Black/African-American students’ six-year graduation rates at Tufts have gone through greater fluctuation over the past decade and are typically lower.

The differences between racial and ethnic group graduation rates are reflective not only of historical power structures and privileges, but of state-wide and national trends as well. According to research done by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) on graduating classes of 2013, four-year private colleges in Massachusetts have a 75.5 percent six-year graduation rate. The NCES, which tracks the completion for first-time, full-time, degree seeking undergraduate students, reports that the state-wide gender and racial breakdown is reflective yet also more polarized than the rates recorded by Tufts. Just at four-year private colleges in Massachusetts, on the upper end of the spectrum, 84.5 percent of Asian/Asian-American students were graduated within six years while 57.9 percent of American-Indian students graduated within six years.

Examining the discrepancies between the graduation rates of different groups, we see that walking across the stage at graduation isn’t of equal opportunity to all. That Tufts has a less extreme difference in graduation rates between ethnic and racial groups when compared to state-wide trends is heartening but cannot be all-forgiving. We cannot ignore that inequality exists on our campus in graduation rates.


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