Graduations rates are slowly rising in North Carolina's public universities, but disparities remain among each school and their racial demographics.
About 72 percent of freshmen who started at a UNC System school in 2011 got their degrees within six years, but graduation rates are still significantly lower at institutions with more low-income students and people of color.
For the incoming class of 2011, six-year graduation rates varied from 93 percent at UNC-Chapel Hill to 40 percent at Fayetteville State University.
It's not a new phenomenon. Racial and socioeconomic disaprities have been well documented over the years, and the most recent numbers show about 78 percent of white students got degrees within six years compared to 57 percent of black students.
But system president Margaret Spellings recently signed performance agreements with each school designed to narrow some of those gaps, according to Andrew Kelly, the UNC System's Senior Vice President for Strategy and Policy.
"Many of our institutions have highlighted that they want to increase their graduation rates. Others have targeted those low-income and rural completions. That's a tool by which the president has both set expectations and can hold the chancellors accountable for their performances," Kelly said.
Kelly says students of color or low-income also have less access to university prep courses, which can affect their performances in college.
"Some have access to every AP course that's offered... any AP course under the sun," Kelly said. "While some lack access sometimes to even basic college prep courses like Algebra 2. Those disparities in some respects obviously carry over to our system."
The numbers include students who started at a UNC System school, but might have finished their degree at another university.