Opinion: Clarion Call

Racial references to blame for black graduation rates at N.C. State, not low aid

Clarion Call No. 140
A collection of black student interest groups at North Carolina State University has graded the university on the subjects of enrollment and graduation of black students and recruitment of black faculty. The African-American Student Advisory Council, not surprisingly, gave the university mostly failing grades. In essence, the groups gave N.C. State low marks because the university doesn’t discriminate enough in the way they want it to.

The AASAC gave the university F’s in enrolling black students and recruiting black faculty, a D in black graduation rates, and a B in financial aid for black students. The report card, “N.C. State University’s African American Student Issues; Spring 2002 University Report,” uses statistics provided by the university. Among the findings were that between 1994 to 1999 the graduation rate of black students was only 47 percent, the ratio of black faculty has fallen by 2.7 percent, and black enrollment rates fell by 10 percent while overall enrollment increased by 5 percent.

As reported by Technician, N.C. State’s student newspaper, N.C. State Provost Stuart Cooper disagreed with the failing grades given for black enrollment and faculty recruitment. Cooper said that in comparison with its peer universities, N.C. State rates highly in those areas.

The AASAC’s statistics are not new, however. A 1998 study released by the Center for Equal Opportunity, “Preferences in North Carolina Higher Education,” by Drs. Robert Lerner and Althea K. Nagai, found the six-year graduation rate for black students at N.C. State was 48 percent. Moreover, the CEO study found “a very large degree of racial preference in favor of blacks relative to whites” in undergraduate admissions for fall 1995 at N.C. State — 177.1 to 1. This was, in fact, the largest degree of racial preferences found by the CEO in its many studies of state universities, beating out even the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor’s odds ratio in favor of blacks over whites of 173.7 to 1. Michigan is currently facing two separate lawsuits over its racial preferences.

On its website, the CEO instituted an “admissions predictor” at N.C. State based on its findings, so visitors “can learn what your chances were of being admitted to North Carolina State University in 1995.” They “will depend on your skin color and your ethnic group, in addition to your SAT scores and your grade point average.” The predictor is at http://www.ceousa.org/html/ncst2.html.

N.C. State has changed it admissions practices since 1995, according to admissions officials there. Nevertheless, when the AASAC study looks at the six-year graduation rates of black students, it necessarily includes black students admitted under the preferences uncovered by the CEO.

The CEO also found that N.C. State admitted 76.4 percent of black applicants, compared with 72.4 percent for whites, 70.6 percent for Asians, and 55.5 percent for Hispanics. Also, the CEO found that significant differences in the Verbal and Math SAT scores and grade-point averages between black and white admittees to N.C. State. Black admittees’ Verbal SAT scores averaged 90 points lower than whites; Math SAT scores, 110 points lower; and GPAs, 0.38 points lower (on a 4.0 scale).

The CEO report also provides explanation for the low graduation rates for black students at N.C. State, and its explanation is substantively different from the AASAC’s reasoning that the university failed to provide adequate financial aid and scholarship opportunities. The governing assumption of the AASAC is that the problem is a lack of money. The CEO’s was that racial preferences placed greater academic burdens on those students than they could bear.

“If students gain admission to colleges and universities for reasons other than their academic preparation,” the report states, “it is likely that they will face greater burdens in school than will their peers who have met a higher academic standard of admission. They may in fact not earn their degrees. It follows, therefore, that racial and ethnic preferences will have a negative effect on the graduation rates of students who supposedly benefit from them.”

The CEO study is available online at http://www.ceousa.org/html/nc.html.