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 New Study: Blacks More Likely to Enroll in Grad School

The socioeconomic and racial/ethnic gaps in undergraduate enrollment and college completion are widely recognized.

New research from Urban Institute - a Washington, DC-based non-profit organization that’s been dedicated to elevating the debate on social and economic policy for nearly five decades by conducting objective research and offering evidence-based solutions - finds parallel gaps in the attainment of graduate and professional degrees.

The percentage of adults who are 25 years and older and who hold advanced degrees ranges from 5 percent for Hispanics and 8 percent for blacks to 14 percent for whites and 21 percent for Asians.

The new report - Who Goes to Graduate School and Who Succeeds? - examines postgraduate enrollment patterns among bachelor’s degree recipients from different groups.

Thirty-nine percent of 2007-08 bachelor’s degree recipients enrolled in grad school within four years, including 40 percent of women, 36 percent of men, 39 percent of those from the lowest family income quartile, and 45 percent from the highest income group.

At 45 percent the enrollment rate for black college graduates is higher than for other racial/ethnic groups. But only 19 percent of black students who were high school sophomores in 2002 had earned a bachelor’s degree 10 years later compared with 33 percent of all high school sophomores.

“In other words, black students earning bachelor’s degrees who are in a position to consider graduate school have already beaten the odds and are a much smaller part of their age group than white and Asian college graduates,” report the authors of this research, Sandy Baum, Ph.D., and Patricia Steele, Ph.D..

Baum is a senior fellow in the income and benefits policy center at the Urban Institute. Steele is founder and principal consultant of the DC-based research and evaluation firm Higher Ed Insight.

Moreover, black college grads disproportionately enrolled in master’s degree programs, which generate smaller earnings boosts than doctoral and professional programs. And 24 percent of black graduate students attended for-profit graduate schools. Only 5 to 7 percent of Asian, white and Hispanic grad students were in this sector.

This brief, according to researchers, is the first in a series addressing enrollment and success in graduate school funding of graduate students and financial barriers, earnings outcomes of students with varying characteristics, and differences between undergraduate and graduate students.

More insights from this new study can be found on the Urban Institute’s website at urban.org/sites/default/files/publication/86981/who_goes_to_graduate_school_and_who_succeeds_1.pdf.

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