Pulling Back the Curtain: Enrollment and Outcomes at MSIs

By Jacob Martin

A recent report from The American Council on Education, entitled Pulling Back the Curtain: Enrollment and Outcomes at Minority Serving Institutions, uses National Student Clearinghouse (NSC) data to track learning outcomes for students who enrolled in Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) in 2007. The study compares graduation rates of exclusively full-time students in NSC’s longitudinal study to figures released by the U.S. Department of Education. The differences appear to be attributable to discrepancies in data collection and interpretation. Though efforts are made to collect thoroughly representative data, NSC relies on voluntary submissions from institutions, many of whom do not supply requested information. By comparison, the U.S. Department of Education collects required data from all federally recognized institutions through the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

Among the key findings:

  • Graduation rates shown in NSC data are consistently higher than those released by the U.S. Department of Education.
    • The Department of Education lists the graduation rate for exclusively full-time students at public four-year Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) at 34.1 percent. NSC data reveal a 43 percent completion rate for the same students.
      • For exclusively full-time students at private four-year HBCUs, NSC data show a 66.7 percent completion rate for HBCUs while the Department of Education shows a graduation rate of 43.9 percent.
      • The majority of students at HBCUs were not enrolled exclusively full- or part-time (mixed enrollment). 65 percent of students at public two-year, 52 percent of students at public four-year, and 43 percent of students at private four-year HBCUs are enrolled with mixed enrollment.
    • The Department of Education lists the graduation rate for exclusively full-time students at public four-year Predominantly Black Institutions (PBIs) at 16.6 percent. NSC data reveal a nearly 52 percent completion rate for the same students.
      • The majority of students at PBIs enrolled through mixed enrollment. 62 percent of students at public two-year, 68 percent of students at public four-year, and 50 percent of students at private four-year PBIs are enrolled with mixed enrollment.
    • The Department of Education lists the graduation rate for exclusively full-time students at public four-year Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs) at 42.7 percent. NSC data reveal an approximately 50 percent completion rate for the same students.
      • NSC data reveal a 40.3 percent completion rate for exclusively full-time students at public two-year HSIs, compared to the Department of Education’s listed graduation rate of 25.5 percent.
      • The majority of students at HSIs enrolled through mixed enrollment. 72 percent of students at public two-year, 66 percent of students at public four-year, and 45 percent of students at private four-year HSIs are enrolled with mixed enrollment.
    • The Department of Education lists the graduation rate for exclusively full-time students at public four-year Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institutions (AANAPISIs) at 66.2 percent. NSC data reveal a nearly 88 percent completion rate for the same students.
      • Enrollment patterns at AANAPISIs differ between public and private institutions. 73 percent of students at public two-year AANAPISIs and 50 percent of students at public four-year AANAPISIs enrolled through mixed enrollment. At private four-year AANAPISIs, 71 percent of students enrolled exclusively full time.
  • This study was unable to include students at Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs) due to low participation in NSC data collection.