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Grads of Historically Black Colleges Have Well-Being Edge

by Sean Seymour and Julie Ray

Story Highlights

  • Black HBCU grads are stronger in purpose, financial well-being
  • College experiences different for HBCU, non-HBCU grads
  • More black HBCU grads strongly agree they received support

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in the U.S. are battling a number of challenges, including declining enrollment numbers and lower-than-average graduation and retention rates. Despite these challenges, a new Gallup study reveals that black graduates of HBCUs are more likely than black graduates of other institutions to be thriving -- strong, consistent and progressing -- in a number of areas of their lives, particularly in their financial and purpose well-being.

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These findings are among those featured in the new Gallup-USA Funds Minority College Graduates Report. This report is based on the results from Gallup-Purdue Index studies in 2014 and 2015 with 55,812 college graduates aged 18 and older, with Internet access, who received bachelor's degrees between 1940 and 2015. The study included 520 black graduates of HBCUs and 1,758 black graduates of other colleges. These results are based on a Gallup model that accounts for factors such as decade of graduation, student loan debt and parents' education.

The thriving gap between black graduates of HBCUs and black graduates of other schools is largest in financial well-being, which gauges how effectively people are managing their economic lives to reduce stress and increase security. Four in 10 black HBCU graduates (40%) are thriving in this area, compared with fewer than three in 10 (29%) black graduates of other schools.

Of the five elements of well-being that Gallup measures, black graduates of HBCUs are most likely to be thriving in social (54%) and purpose (51%) well-being, which means the majority of them have strong social relationships and they like what they do each day and are motivated to achieve goals. While statistically similar percentages of black HBCU graduates and black non-HBCU graduates are thriving in social well-being, HBCU graduates lead non-HBCU graduates in purpose well-being -- less than half of non-HBCU graduates (43%) are thriving in this area.

College Experiences Linked to Thriving After College

Black graduates of HBCUs are more likely than black graduates of other colleges to strongly agree they had the support and experiential learning opportunities in college that Gallup finds are strongly related to graduates' well-being later in life. In turn, these experiences may also contribute to black HBCU graduates being more likely to strongly agree that their colleges prepared them for life after graduation (55%) than black graduates of other institutions (29%).

More than one in three black HBCU graduates (35%) strongly agree that they had a professor who cared about them as a person, a professor who made them excited about learning and a mentor who encouraged them to pursue their goals and dreams; only 12% of black non-HBCU graduates strongly agree they had all three experiences.

In fact, black graduates of HBCUs are more likely to strongly agree they had each of these experiences, with the gap between HBCU and non-HBCU black graduates widest when recalling having professors who cared about them as people (58% vs. 25%).

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A similar positive relationship exists with experiential learning opportunities -- black graduates of HBCUs are more likely to report involvement in applied internships, long-term projects and extracurricular activities.

Implications

Although HBCUs are struggling in a number of areas, their overall success in providing black graduates with a better college experience than they would receive at non-HBCUs needs to be examined more closely and potentially modeled at other institutions. The profoundly different experiences that black graduates of HBCUs and non-HBCUs are having in college may leave HBCU graduates feeling better prepared for life afterward and potentially lead these two groups to live vastly different lives after college.

Survey Methods

Results represent data collected over the course of two years as part of the National Gallup-Purdue Index.

Year one of the study was conducted Feb. 4-March 7, 2014, with a random sample of 29,560 respondents with a bachelor's degree or higher, aged 18 and older, with Internet access, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. The sample was compiled from two sources: the Gallup Panel and the Gallup Daily tracking survey.

The Gallup Panel is a proprietary, probability-based longitudinal panel of U.S. adults that are selected using random-digit-dial (RDD) and address-based sampling methods. The Gallup Panel is not an opt-in panel and includes 60,000 individuals. Gallup Panel members with a college degree and with access to the Internet were invited to take the Gallup-Purdue Index survey online.

The Gallup Daily tracking survey sample includes national adults with a minimum quota of 50 percent cellphone respondents and 50 percent landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using RDD methods. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday. Gallup Daily tracking respondents with a college degree who agreed to future contact were invited to take the Gallup-Purdue Index survey online.

Year two of the study was conducted Dec. 16, 2014-June 29, 2015, with a random sample of 30,151 respondents with a bachelor's degree or higher, aged 18 and older, with Internet access, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. The sample was recruited using the Gallup Daily tracking survey.

Gallup-Purdue Index interviews are conducted via the Web, in English only. Samples are weighted to correct for unequal selection probability and nonresponse. The data are weighted to match national demographics of gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education and region. Demographic weighting targets are based on the most recent Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older population with a U.S. bachelor's degree or higher.

All reported margins of sampling error for the Gallup-Purdue Index of all college graduates include the computed design effects for weighting.

For results based on the total sample of black HBCU graduates, the margin of sampling error is ±6.1 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.

For results based on the total sample of black graduates of other schools, the margin of sampling error is ±3.3 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.

For results based on the total sample of those with a bachelor's degree or higher, the margin of sampling error is ±0.6 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.

For results based on employee engagement of those with a bachelor's degree or higher, the margin of sampling error is ±0.8 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.


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