US News and World Report Freshman Retention Rate Among HBCUs

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Freshman year is often one of the toughest for college students. Adjusting to a new campus, peers and curriculum is hard, and some students must do this while also figuring out how they’ll pay for school. These issues and more can cause many undergrads to decline to return after their first year.

At historically black colleges and universities, many students struggle to make it past freshman year. “At half the HBCUs in our survey, the Black student graduation rate is 33 percent or lower,” according to a November 2013 report from the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education.

Some HBCUs – as they’re often called – excel at getting students to enroll again in the fall after their first year. At Spelman College in Atlanta, for example, the average freshman retention rate for first-year students starting in fall 2008 through 2011 was 88 percent. It had the highest freshman retention rate among historically black schools, according to data submitted to U.S. News by 68 ranked institutions. Howard University, which has a larger enrollment than the two schools ahead of it, came in third at over 82%.

Among the 10 HBCUs with the highest average freshman retention rate, all schools had a rate that exceeded 70 percent. Among National Universities and National Liberal Arts Colleges, the 10 schools with the highest freshman retention rates – which included Brown University and University of Notre Dame – the rates ranged between 97.5 and 99 percent.

One of the historically black schools where the fewest students returned after their first year was Arkansas Baptist College. The Regional College​​​​‘s​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​ freshman retention rate was on average 42.5 percent between fall 2008 and 2011. Among all 68 schools, the average rate is 63.5 percent.

Below is a list of the 10 historically black colleges and universities that had the highest average freshman retention rates for first-year students starting in fall 2008 through 2011. Schools that were designated by U.S. News as Unranked were not considered for this report. U.S. News did not calculate a numerical ranking for Unranked programs because the program did not meet certain criteria that U.S. News requires to be numerically ranked.

School name (state) Average freshman retention rate (2008-2011) U.S. News Historically Black Colleges and Universities ranking
Spelman College (GA) 88% 1
Morehouse College (GA) 82.5% 2
Howard University (DC) 82.3% 3
Florida A&M University 79.5% 9
Winston-Salem State University (NC) 78.3% 17
Elizabeth City State University (NC) 76.5% 18
Southern University and A&M College (LA) 75.7% RNP*
Tougaloo College (MS) 74.8% 14
Jackson State University (MS) 74.5% 25
North Carolina A&T State University 74.5% 8

*RNP denotes an institution that is ranked in the bottom one-fourth of its ranking category. U.S. News calculates a rank for the school but has decided not to publish it.

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