Education / Lifestyle / National / Opinion & Editorial / U.S. News / Uncategorized

HBCUs experience lower graduation rates

An op-ed by Kori Wiggins

According to a study conducted by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the six-year graduation rates of 20 historically black colleges or universities (HBCUs) were 20 percent or lower in 2015. Although a handful of HBCUs have more than 50 percent of their new freshmen graduating within six years, the percentages of the schools excluded are low compared to other institutions.

Spelman College led the graduation rate of all HBCUs with 76 percent in 2015, whereas the Virginia University of Lynchburg held a five percent graduation rate that same year. This means four of five beginning freshmen at these schools failed to earn their degree within the given time frame. This speaks on the misuse of a school’s services, such as summer bridge programs.

These rates are also in relation to family income. “Graduation rates directly correlate with the income of the student body. More low income students – typically, lower graduation rates. Why? Because low-income students don’t have access to the same college prep opportunities and because they don’t have the financial safety nets of middle and upper income students,” said Marybeth Gasman, an education professor at the University of Pennsylvania.

According to, Norfolk State University’s graduation class of 2012 held 1,548 bachelor’s degree candidates, and the numbers increased as years went by. Two years following, 37.4 percent of the class of 2014 graduated and two years afterwards, this rate increased to 41.7 percent.

Norfolk State University has programs in place such as the Dr. Patricia Lynch Stith Student Success Center Peer Tutoring Program to help students remain on track to graduate.

The free program assists students in becoming independent learners by sharing strategies that positively impact their academic achievement, including strengthening course skills. The Student Success Center program is also certified by the College Reading and Learning Association at the Level II stage, providing creditability and setting standards.

Norfolk State also offers online tutoring via Smarthinking, a free online tool for students to utilize. With this program, students are assisted in academic areas such as calculus, human anatomy and accounting.

Students can also interact live with tutors of the program when meeting physically becomes problematic. For log-in information, contact Dr. Edwards, the tutor coordinator, at