Report: These colleges do best in popular Black majors

Washington Monthly's study highlights institutions that offer enriching learning environments and provide students with more opportunities that lead to well-paying jobs.
By: | August 31, 2020
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What colleges are providing the best outcomes in three of the most popular majors for Black students?

According to the “2020 College Guide and Rankings” report released Monday by the nonprofit Washington Monthly, a number of higher education institutions are providing the best bang for the buck – median earnings out of college – for those interested in social work, criminal justice and sociology.

The University of Alabama topped the list of schools that put Black students ahead of the curve in earnings post graduation in social work. Others that excelled in helping students achieve more than median salaries ($31,800) in the category were Georgia State University, the University of Maryland-Baltimore County, West Chester University, Temple, the University of North Carolina-Charlotte, Rutgers University and East Carolina University.

The report, done by the magazine in conjunction with the Department of Education and as an alternative to the U.S. News and World Report’s list of best colleges, rated institutions based on a number of “socially conscious” variables, including how well they recruit and graduate non-wealthy students, foster student activism, and produce research and technologies that create high-paying jobs.

“This issue of the magazine gives [colleges and universities] metrics they can use to hold their own schools accountable, and ideas we can all use to turn the system around,” says Paul Glastris, Washington Monthly’s editor-in-chief.

For Black students looking at colleges in popular majors such as criminal justice, Washington Monthly’s list gives a unique window into those institutions that can give them the best chance to succeed. Texas Christian University topped the list in the category, where grads see a median earning of $40,000 upon graduation, more than $6,000 above the average starting salary for students. Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla., La Salle University in Philadelphia and the University of Louisville all positioned students for better-than-average outcomes.

In the sociology major, three Ivy League schools topped the list – Columbia University, Dartmouth College and Cornell University, – with Duke, Georgetown, Michigan State, the University of Houston, Wake Forest, Notre Dame and Emory University rounding out the top 10.

Each of the colleges and universities listed in the three categories also graduated more Black students than the national average.

Different challenges, better rankings

The overall report rewards institutions that not only excel in providing the best learning environments for students but also are able to adapt to position students well to a changing landscape as issues of mass unemployment, COVID-19 inequalities and racial injustice swirl around new graduates. Aside from the rankings, Washington Monthly also highlights for example 157 colleges and universities who stand out in helping promote student voting.

The report’s editors note that the metholodogy used gives weight to institutions that provide more opportunities and fewer barriers for students.

“Texas A&M, ranked 70th by U.S. News, is 12th on the Washington Monthly list because it enrolls and graduates enormous numbers of first-generation and Pell grant students as well as science and engineering PhDs,” the study noted. “Last year, the school graduated more Pell Grant recipients than StanfordHarvardYale, and Princeton combined.”

Though many of those listed in the top 20 of its four-year national rankings are mainstays – Stanford, Harvard, MIT – half are public universities, including Utah State University,  which comes in at No. 9 because “it charges lower-income students so little in tuition and graduates so many.”

The report also ranks colleges in number of other categories. The top three in each overarching group are: best liberal arts colleges (Amherst College, Wesleyan University and Barea College); best master’s universities (Goddard College, Evergreen State College and Cal State San Bernardino); and best bachelor’s colleges (College of the Ozarks, Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art and Hiram College).


Chris Burt is a reporter and editor for University Business. He can be reached at cburt@lrp.com