Information Brief 2012-28

College Degree Completion Rates by Race/Ethnicity and College Readiness

The ACT College Readiness Benchmarks indicate readiness for credit-bearing, first-year college coursework in English composition, social sciences courses, algebra, and biology. Ideally, students should be college-ready in all four subject areas by the time they enter college. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.

African American (58%) and Hispanic students (46%) were more likely than White students (19%) to graduate from high school without the skills necessary for college coursework, as indicated by a higher percentage of these students not meeting any of the Benchmarks. They were also less likely to complete a bachelor’s degree within six years of enrolling in a four-year institution.

College readiness improves students’ chances of completing a college degree. For all racial/ethnic groups, six-year bachelor’s degree completion rates were higher for students who met more of the Benchmarks. Moreover, the racial/ethnic gaps in six-year bachelor’s degree completion rates were smaller when college readiness was taken into account. The gap in degree completion rates between African American and White students was reduced from 19 percentage points (regardless of number of Benchmarks met) to 9 percentage points for students who met all four of the Benchmarks.

Six-Year Bachelor’s Degree Completion Rates by Race/Ethnicity and Number of Benchmarks Met

Number of Benchmarks MetAfrican AmericanHispanicWhite
037%41%47%
144%49%54%
252%56%62%
359%64%69%
466%70%75%

Note: Based on a random sample of 18,860 ACT-tested 2003 high school graduates who enrolled in a four-year college in fall 2003. Degree information was obtained from the National Student Clearinghouse. Degree completion rates were model-based estimates. For a more detailed description of the study, see the full ACT Research Report 2012-2.

Race/Ethnicity and College Readiness

Percent not meeting any ACT Benchmarks
African AmericanHispanicWhite
58%46%19%

Note: Percentages based on approximately 1.1 million ACT-tested 2003 high school graduates who reported their race/ethnicity.

Race/Ethnicity and College Completion

Percent completed a bachelor’s degree within 6 years
African AmericanHispanicWhite
45%55%64%

Note: Percentages based on a random sample of 18,860 ACT-tested 2003 high school graduates who enrolled in a four-year college in fall 2003.

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