Friday, April 19, 2013

Why North Carolina's Five Public HBCUs Are Still Needed -- Part 1

A Very Bad Idea Whose Time Will, Hopefully, Never Come 
In a recent article (Consolidate UNC Campuses But Give Savings to HBCUs, Newsobserver.com, 3/26/13), Mr. Rick Martinez lamented what he regarded as the unacceptably low graduation rates of North Carolina's five HBCUs -- Elizabeth City State University, Fayetteville State University, North Carolina A&T University, North Carolina Central University, and Winston-Salem State University. He proposed to raise their graduation rates by merging them into a smaller number of institutions and passing the savings that he anticipated from the lower costs of operating the more efficient consolidations to the merged HBCUs.
  • IMHO Mr. Martinez places North Carolina's public HBCUs within a 20th century framework. He therefore sees them as underperforming corporate entities for which he applies an inappropriate 20th century corporate solution ==> consolidation
     
  • By contrast, within a 21st century framework, I see these same HBCUs as valuable assets whose performance could be enhanced by applying 21st century solution strategies ==> "disruptive innovations" 
In other words, Mr. Martinez sees the glass as half-empty; I see it as half-full.  He wants to merge the state's HBCUs into fewer campuses, whereas the reader will see that I would advocate increasing the number of HBCU campuses so as to provide more opportunities for blended degree programs composed of face-to-face courses, blended courses, and online courses.
A. Corporate Illusions
Why would consolidation yield substantial savings? Unlike modern corporations, higher education in North Carolina and throughout most the nation's colleges and universities is still a labor intensive activity; so the state's black students would still require the same number of instructors and the same number of administrative support staff after the HBCUs were consolidated. Indeed, consolidation would only yield substantial savings if the number of black students enrolled in the consolidated mega-HBCUs was substantially lower than are currently enrolled in the five public HBCUs.

As can be seen from Table 1 (below), the total black enrollment -- 23,643 -- at the five HBCUs is 40 percent higher than the total black enrollment at North Carolina's 11 non-HBCUs -- 17,192. Readers should note that the five HBCUs are listed at the top of the table in order of their six year graduation rates; the 11 non-HBCUs follow the HBCUS, again in order of their six year graduation rates.

Given that Mr. Martinez has not proposed to expel substantial numbers of black students or to substantially reduce the number of black students admitted to the state's public institutions in the future, there is no reason to believe that herding them all into fewer HBCUs or dispersing them among the state's non-HBCUs would substantially reduce the total cost of educating them.

Table 1 -- Undergraduate Enrollments and Graduation Rates in Fall 2011
University
Six-year Graduation Rates-- Fall 2011
Total
Undergrad
 Enrollment
Percent
Black
Black
Undergrad
 Enrollment
Elizabeth City State University
44%
2836
74%
2099
Winston-Salem State University
41%
5692
78%
4440
North Carolina A & T State University
41%
9206
88%
8101
North Carolina Central University
38%
6416
84%
5389
Fayetteville State University
31%
5162
70%
3613


Total Black Enrollment

23643
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
89%
18430
9%
1659
North Carolina State University at Raleigh
72%
25176
8%
2014
University of North Carolina at Wilmington
67%
11950
5%
598
Appalachian State University
65%
15460
3%
464
University of North Carolina at Asheville
61%
3814
3%
114
East Carolina University
59%
21589
15%
3238
University of North Carolina School of the Arts
58%
772
9%
69
University of North Carolina at Greensboro
53%
14898
23%
3427
University of North Carolina at Charlotte
53%
20283
17%
3448
Western Carolina University
50%
7627
6%
458
University of North Carolina at Pembroke
34%
5494
31%
1703


Total Black Enrollment

17192
Source -- Data extracted from interactive database on IPEDS Data Center Website

B. Graduation Rates at North Carolina's Public HBCUs
As can be seen from Table 1 (above), the six year graduation rates of the five HBCUs are lower than those of most (but not all) of North Carolina's 11 non-HBCUs. But why does Mr. Martinez think the graduation rates of the public HBCUs are too low? Why does he lament that:
"In my book, the best measure of an institution’s worth is its graduation rate, and the numbers out of the state’s HBCUs aren’t good. Not only is this a poor return on the state’s investment, it’s also a big-time problem for the students. Prospective employers are interested only in degrees earned, not classes taken."

Read more here: http://www.newsobserver.com/2013/03/26/2781636/consolidate-unc-campuses-but-give.html#stAs 
Not good? ... "Poor return"?? ... Big-time problem???? What did he expect them to be? Indeed, how high should we expect the HBCU graduation rates to be? Rather than propose an arbitrary cut-off of acceptability, it will be more instructive to compare the graduation rates of the HBCUs with the graduation rates of the other universities within the University of North Carolina (UNC) system.

C. Graduation Rates vs. SAT Scores and Pell Grants
Table 2 (below) again displays graduation rates for the 16 public universities in North Carolina, but this time the rates are accompanied by SAT scores and Pell grant allocations that will provide context and explanation for the differences between the graduation rates of the five HBCUs and the non-HBCUs in our comparisons. Close examination of the data in Table 2 reveals two broad patterns:
  • The higher the SAT scores, the higher the university's graduation rates ... more or less
    -- Note: 25 percent of the entering freshmen obtained scores on their SAT exams that were below the 25th percentile mark
    -- Note: 25 percent of the entering freshmen obtained scores on their SAT exams that were above the 75th percentile mark

     
  • The higher the percentage of students receiving Pell grants, the lower the university's graduation rates ... more or less ... This pattern occurs overall, but not among the HBCUs
These broad patterns are not surprising because:
  • SAT tests are designed to predict academic performance
     
  • Pell grants are awarded to financially needy students. Unfortunately, Pell grants don't cover all tuition and living expenses. Hence the higher the percentage of students receiving Pell grants, the higher the percentage of students who will feel pressed to take part-time jobs whose working hours may interfere with their academic efforts. This will be especially true in the aftermath of the Great Recession for Black and Hispanic students who cannot offset rising tuition with increased financial support from their families.

    As reported by the Pew Research Center, "From 2005 to 2009, inflation-adjusted median wealth fell by 66% among Hispanic households and 53% among black households, compared with just 16% among white households." (See "Wealth Gaps Rise to Record Highs Between Whites, Blacks, Hispanics" -- Pew Research Social & Demographic Trends, July 26, 2011)
Although broad patterns can be detected in Table 2, the table presents too much data in too many categories to readily assess the performance of the HBCUs. Therefore the data in Table 2 is summarized in Table 3 (below) and discussed in the next section of this note.

The reader should note that the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is not grouped with the other non-HBCUs in Table 2 in order to emphasize that it in a class by itself, sui generis. Chapel Hill is the flagship of the UNC system: its professors receive substantially higher salaries, and the admissions criteria for its students are substantially higher than at the other 15 universities.  Chapel Hill is as good as it gets. Hence it is the gold standard to which the performance of the HBCUs and North Carolina's other 10 public universities will be compared in the remaining sections of this discussion.

Table 2. Graduation Rates vs. Pell Grant Percentages and SAT Scores in Fall 2011
University
Six-year Grad Rates
(2)
Percent of full-time first-time undergrads receiving Pell grants
(3)
Total
Undergrad
(4)

 
SAT Critical Reading 25th percentile
(5)
SAT Critical Reading 75th percentile
(6)
SAT Math 25th percentile
(7)
SAT Math 75th percentile
(8)
SAT Writing 25th percentile
(9)
SAT Writing 75th percentile
(10)
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
89%
20%
18430
590
700
610
710
590
690










North Carolina State University at Raleigh
72%
29%
25176
530
620
560
660
510
610
University of North Carolina at Wilmington
67%
22%
11950
540
620
550
620
520
600
Appalachian State University
65%
23%
15460
510
610
530
610
490
590
University of North Carolina at Asheville
61%
33%
3814
540
650
520
620
510
620
East Carolina University
59%
34%
21589
460
550
490
570
450
540










U. North Carolina School of the Arts
58%
25%
772
510
630
480
600
490
620
University of North Carolina at Greensboro
53%
45%
14898
460
560
460
560
440
550
University of North Carolina at Charlotte
53%
38%
20283
480
570
500
590
470
550
Western Carolina University
50%
41%
7627
470
560
480
570
440
530
University of North Carolina at Pembroke
34%
58%
5494
410
490
420
500
390
470










Elizabeth City State University
44%
80%
2836
370
450
380
470
350
430
Winston-Salem State University
41%
73%
5692
400
480
410
490
380
460
North Carolina A & T State University
41%
68%
9206
390
480
410
500
350
440
North Carolina Central University
38%
76%
6416
380
460
390
470
370
450
Fayetteville State University
31%
75%
5162
370
450
390
470
350
430
Source -- Data extracted from interactive database on IPEDS Data Center Website

D. Weighted Averages

Table 3 (below) displays weighted averages of the data presented in Table 2 (above), wherein the universities are divided into three groups: "Upper Five" non-HBCUs, "Lower Five" non-HBCUs, and "HBCUs." Weighted averages of the data presented in Table 2 are calculated for each group where the averages are weighted by the total undergraduate enrollments in each university.
  • Column (2) displays the average enrollments in each group
     
  • Column (3) displays the weighted average six-year graduation rates for each group
     
  • Column (4) displays the weighted average Pell percentages for each group
The weighted averages for the Reading, Math, and Writing 25th percentiles were calculated, but are not displayed
  • Column (5) displays the simple average of the weighted 25th percentiles, i.e., it displays the sum of the weighted averages for the Reading, Math, and Writing 25th percentiles divided by 3
     
  • Column (6) displays the simple average of the weighted 75th percentiles, i.e., it displays the sum of the weighted averages for the Reading, Math, and Writing 75th percentiles  divided by 3
The broad patterns that were discernible in Table 2 (above) are now crystal clear in Table 3 (below):
  • The higher a group's weighted SAT scores, the higher its weighted average graduation rates
     
  • The higher a group's weighted Pell grant percentages, the lower its weighted average graduation rates
The SAT scores suggest that the Upper Five universities tend to enroll B students, together with some A and C students;  the Lower Five tend to enroll C students, together with some A and B students; and the HBCUs tend tend to enroll C students, together with some A, B, and marginal students.

Table 3. Weighted Averages of  Graduation Rates vs. Pell Grant Percentages and SAT Scores in Fall 2011  
Group
Enrollment Average
(2)
Graduation Rates Weighted Average
(3)
Percentage Pell Grants Weighted Average
(4)
SAT 25th Percentile Weighted Average
(5)
SAT 75th Percentile Weighted Average
(6)
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
18430
89%
20%
597
700
Upper Five
15598
66%
28%
510
601
Lower Five
9815
50%
43%
463
555
HBCUS
5862
39%
73%
381
465
Upper Five = North Carolina State University at Raleigh, University of North Carolina at Wilmington, Appalachian State University, University of North Carolina at Asheville, East Carolina University
Lower Five = University North Carolina School of the Arts, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Western Carolina University, University of North Carolina at Pembroke
HBCUs= Elizabeth City State University, Winston-Salem State University, North Carolina A & T State University, North Carolina Central University, Fayetteville State University


E. Expected Graduation Rates
Table 4 (below)  displays the graduation rates that could be expected for each group if their rates were proportional to their students' SAT scores:
  •  Column (2) repeats the percent Pell grant weighted average for each group for convenient reference
     
  • Column (3) repeats the 6-year graduation rates weighted averages for each group, again for convenient reference
     
  • Column (4) displays the ratios of the sum of the each group's weighted 25th and 75 percentile scores to the sum of Chapel Hill's scores for its 25th and 75th percentile scores. Ratios are expressed as percentages.
     
  • Column (5) displays the expected score obtained by multiplying the SAT ratios in column (4) by Chapel Hill's 89.0 percent 6-year graduation rate
     
  • Column (6) displays the differences between the expected scores in column (5) and the weighted averages in column (3)
It should come as no surprise that the graduation rates for all three groups fall short of the estimates based on comparisons with Chapel Hill. If all other things were equal, the students attending universities in the Upper Five, Lower Five, and HBCUs would have access to the same quality of resources  as the students at Chapel Hill. So their lower graduation rates would only reflect their weaker academic preparation

... but all other things are far from equal. Chapel Hill is the flagship of the UNC system, so the state has provided it with disproportionately more premium resources, including more highly paid, nationally renowned faculty. (Note: The IPEDs database reports that the average salary of full-time faculty at Chapel Hill was $105,000 in the Fall 2011 semester, but no other university in the UNC system had average faculty salaries higher than $90,000, and most were substantially lower than $80,000)

However, Mr. Martinez and other critics of the five HBCUs in the UNC system may be surprised to learn that:
  • The 6-year graduation shortfall for the HBCUs, 19.2 percent, was slightly less than that of the Lower Five group, 19.4 percent
     
  • The HBCUs attained this parity despite the fact that 73 percent of their entering freshmen were financially pressed Pell grant recipients, whereas only 43 percent of the Lower Five freshmen received Pell grants.
The estimated shortfalls for the HBCUs and Lower Five should not be taken too literally. What the equal shortfalls do suggest is that the HBCUs are doing at least a good a job as the universities in the Lower Five, and all the more so given the substantially higher percentage of financially pressed students who are enrolled in the HBCUs.

On the other hand, the average enrollment in the Lower Five, 9815, is substantially larger than the average enrollment in the HBCUs, 5862; hence far more students would benefit from improvements in the learning environments of those universities than from comparable improvements in the HBCUs. So the question becomes, "Why do Mr. Martinez and others focus their concerns on North Carolina's  public HBCUs?"


Table 4. Expected Average Graduation Rates in Fall 2011
Group
Percent Pell Grant Weighted Average
(2)
Graduation Rates Weighted Average
(3)
SAT  % of Chapel Hill
(4)
Expected Graduation Rates
(5)
Shortfalls
(6)
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
20%
89.0%
100.0%
89.0%
0.0%
Upper Five
28%
65.7%
85.7%
76.3%
-10.6%
Lower Five
43%
50.5%
78.5%
69.8%
-19.4%
HBCUS
73%
38.9%
65.2%
58.1%
-19.2%
Upper Five = North Carolina State University at Raleigh, University of North Carolina at Wilmington, Appalachian State University, University of North Carolina at Asheville, East Carolina University
Lower Five = University North Carolina School of the Arts, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Western Carolina University, University of North Carolina at Pembroke
HBCUs= Elizabeth City State University, Winston-Salem State University, North Carolina A & T State University, North Carolina Central University, Fayetteville State University



Part 2 -- North Carolina's Public HBCUs as an Epicenter of Black Higher Education ... in process
  • Part 1 of this essay rejected the notion that merging UNC's five public HBCUs would yield substantial savings. It also rejected the notion that their graduation rates were too low.
  • Part 2  will suggest that UNC's five public HBCUs not only occupy a unique position within the HBCU community, but with modest additional support are poised to become national leaders in the creative embrace of the emerging "destructive innovations" in higher education. These IT-based innovations hold the promise of producing learning environments that are substantially more effective, not just for the 9 percent of black students enrolled in the nation's 105 HBCUs, but for the other 91 percent enrolled in non-HBCUs, i.e., in the nation's mainstream colleges and universities.

_________________
Related Notes: