Blacks and Latinos have lagged in graduation rates because of a variety of factors. These include economic barriers, lack of access to advanced placement classes before college and the need for academic support services, study authors said.
Stony Brook University closed the graduation gap for Hispanics from 2004 to 2010 and was among the top colleges to have better graduation rates for black students than white students. The studies ranked it among the top colleges in closing both gaps, with 71 percent of blacks, 58 percent of Latinos and 59 percent of whites who attended graduating in 2010.
"It's a high priority for us and something that the leadership of the university takes very seriously," said Stony Brook University president Samuel L. Stanley Jr.
SUNY Old Westbury also was ranked at the top for black students' graduation rates. Adelphi University and Dowling College were among private institutions making gains in Hispanic graduation rates while LIU Post improved its black graduation rate.
Mary Marquez Bell, enrollment services vice president at SUNY Old Westbury, said that though the college is proud that 48 percent of its black students graduate -- a 16 percentage point rise from 2004 -- it is working to improve white graduation levels that were at 28 percent as of 2010.
"The difficulty we have is one that supersedes the ethnic one and that's the financial one," Marquez Bell said.
Nationally, Hispanics improved graduation levels by 3 percentage points, from 44 percent to 47 percent, in that six-year period, still below an overall graduation rate of 64 percent at the colleges they attended. Black graduation rates remained stagnant at 41 percent.
"What we do see is some very modest improvements for Hispanic students overall in graduation rates, but we haven't seen those gains for African-Americans," said Jennifer Engle, study co-author and higher education research and policy director at The Education Trust. "Unfortunately, the disparities are still too large for both populations."
David Ferguson, associate provost for diversity and inclusion at Stony Brook, credited an "array of diversity activities and programs" for raising minority graduation rates, including "summer boot camps" for incoming low-income and minority students and additional support for those studying science, technology, engineering and math.
Yanil Nuñez, 20, a student of Dominican heritage who participated in the summer program, said ongoing guidance has helped her immensely. A psychology and sociology major, she's already applying for graduate school pending her 2013 graduation.
"When I came here it was my first time away from home as a first-generation college student and the school helped me prepare and work on study skills," Nuñez said. "I became more self-aware about what I liked and what I wanted to pursue."
2010 Hispanic graduation
Cornell University: 90.1%
Vassar College: 87.2%
Syracuse University: 77.4%
Fordham University: 75.2%
SUNY New Paltz: 67.3%
Rochester Institute of Technology: 58.2%
Stony Brook University: 58.1%
Among Best Increases in Hispanic graduation rates from 2004-10
Dowling College: 24.5%
SUNY Oneonta: 21.9%
SUNY Purchase: 19.9%
Adelphi University: 19.6%
University at Buffalo: 17.6%
2010 black graduation rates
Vassar College: 94.6%
Stony Brook University: 71.3%
University at Albany: 71%
SUNY Plattsburgh: 60%
SUNY Old Westbury: 47.6%
LIU Post: 35.4%
Among best increases in black graduation rates from 2004-10
SUNY Old Westbury: 16%
LIU Post: 12.9%
Metropolitan College of New York: 11.9%
Vassar College: 11.3%
Source: The Education Trust