Higher learning: black enrollment at highest level ever, but graduation rate still lags.

Author:Calypso, Anthony S.

AFRICAN AMERICANS ARE ENROLLING IN COLLEGE AT THE highest numbers in the nation's history. And many of those students are going on to graduate. According to figures released by the U.S. Department of Education, blacks were awarded 123,464 bachelor's degrees in 2004. The following year that number increased almost 4% to 127,844.

That's promising news given that blacks with degrees tend to fare better economically. A report by The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education states that blacks who complete a four-year college education have a median income that is now near parity with similarly educated whites.

But despite the upswing in the number of African American graduates, Dr. Claude A. Mayberry Jr. cautions against accepting the latest figures as an indicator of any significant change. "The colleges may have had a couple of good years of financial aid or recruiting," says Mayberry, a board member of The National Council on Educating Black Children, Columbia University Teachers College, and Reading Is Fundamental. "The opportunity to go to college has increased, but when we say opportunity, we leave off an important term, which is access. Students can get into...

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