Graduation Rates Hit All-Time High
Underrepresented Minorities Post Record Gains
By Janet Gilmore, Public Affairs
The graduation rate at Berkeley has hit an all-time high, with more than 82 percent of students now graduating -- a figure clearly outpacing that of most other top public research institutions.
Not only is Berkeley's overall undergraduate graduation rate the highest it's ever been, but figures released by the campus March 11 show that the rates for African American, Chicano and Latino students also are hitting all-time highs.
"These graduation rates are exceptional," said Chancellor Berdahl. "They are a testament to the hard work and dedication of our students and the commitment of our faculty and staff. We don't simply try to attract top students to Berkeley, we provide them with services and guidance that helps ensure they succeed here."
Among students in the entering freshman class of 1992, 82.8 percent graduated within six years, the standard academic benchmark for graduation rates. This compares to 80.5 percent for 1991's entering class, 80.2 for 1990's and 74.9 for 1983's.
By comparison, figures from the American Association of Universities (AAU) show a collective six-year graduation rate of 65.2 percent for students who were freshmen at an AAU institution in 1990, the most recent year for which AAU figures are available. The AAU that represents the top public research institutions in the country.
Gains by African American students are particularly impressive. Their graduation rate shot up from 60.9 percent for the freshman class of 1991 to 71.1 percent for the entering class of 1992. The rate for 1983's incoming class was 50.4 percent.
In addition, African American students from the freshman class of 1992 significantly have narrowed the gap between African American students' graduation rates and those of white students. Among the 1991 freshman class, 81.6 percent of white students graduated within six years, compared to 60.9 of African Americans. By 1992, however, the graduation rate for African Americans soared to 71.1 percent while the rate for whites inched up to 82.9 percent. Thus, African American students had narrowed the gap from 20.7 to 11.8 percentage points.
Latino students in the entering freshman class of 1992 also made record gains as their graduation rate hit 78.4 percent, up from 59.1 percent for 1983's entering freshmen.
Chicano students from 1992's class set a record graduation rate of 67.6 percent, up from 51.7 percent for the entering class of 1983.
"This is incredibly impressive," said Genaro Padilla, vice chancellor of undergraduate affairs. "But it is even more inspiring when one looks at the information behind the numbers. Many of the African American, Chicano and Latino students who made these record gains did not come from a background of privilege."
Among Chicano students in the 1992 freshman class, 45 percent reported combined parental income under $30,000 and 70.3 percent reported that neither parent had a degree from a four-year college.
Regarding Latino students, 25.7 percent reported parental income under $30,000 a year, and 33.9 percent stated that neither parent had a college degree. Among African-American students, 28.4 percent reported a parental income under $30,000 and 34.9 percent stated that neither parent had a college degree.
By comparison, only nine percent of white students from 1992's freshman class reported that their parents earned less than $30,000 a year, and only 10.2 percent of them reported that neither parent had a college degree.
Campus offers a wealth of programs and services for students who do not arrive on campus with the educational advantages of a middle-class life. These programs are offered to any student who requests additional academic support.
The campus has been building on these programs and services in recent years and, campus administrators believe, these historic gains in the graduation rate show that students are making the most of these programs.
The graduation rates for individual groups of students -- and the overall 82.8 percent graduation rate for all Berkeley students -- take on even more significance when placed in historical perspective.