Williams College's Black Graduation Rate One of Highest in U.S.

Media contact: Noelle Lemoine, communications assistant; tele: (413) 597-4277; email: [email protected]

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass., Feb. 21, 2001 — A recent study found that Williams College has one of the highest black graduation rates in the country.

The research was conducted by The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education and will appear in the publication’s Winter 2000/2001 edition. It finds that only five institutions have graduation rates of 90 percent or more: Harvard University (94 percent), Vassar College (92 percent), Amherst College (91 percent), Princeton University (91 percent), and Williams (90 percent).

Williams’ statistics contrast sharply with a grimmer national picture. Only 38 percent of African-American college students graduate within six years, 21 percentage points below the rate for white students, a 1999 survey disclosed.

The college also does well in another litmus test set by the journal: with a black graduation rate only five percent lower than its white rate, it ranks among the nation’s elite institutions.

“This is good news and a result of effective recruitment, dedication on behalf of the students who choose to come here, and the maintenance of an overall atmosphere of excellence,” said Alex Willingham, director of the Multicultural Center at Williams. “We want to improve this pace and we’ll need to be creative in enhancing the quality of on-campus experience for African-American students.”

In an article profiling the study’s findings, the journal argues that the success of African-American students at “our most prestigious colleges and universities” undermines claims that “black students admitted…under race-conscious admissions programs are incapable of competing with their peers.”

Why does Williams graduate so many of its African-American students? One factor, the journal reports, is its reputation, which attracts “the highly motivated young people who are likely to succeed in college.”

Other factors important in the student graduation rates are an orientation program that helps first-year minority students adapt to the campus and the availability and sensitivity of financial aid. More than two-thirds of African-Americans who did not finish college stressed financial concerns as their reason for leaving.