black graduation rate again best in nation
For the 10th straight year,
the University posted the nation’s highest African-American
graduation rate among major public institutions, according to
an annual survey published last month by the Journal of Blacks
in Higher Education.
Using graduation rates compiled by the National Collegiate Athletic
Association, the journal’s December issue credits U.Va.
with graduating 85 percent of the African-American students who
entered in the fall of 1996. (Using a different methodology, U.Va.
calculates the rate at 87 percent.) That figure placed U.Va. first
among NCAA Division I public institutions and tied Dartmouth College
for 18th-best among all 327 Division I schools, public or private.
Nationwide, the black graduation rate was 39 percent, the journal
U.Va. was the leader “by far” among flagship state
universities, according to the journal. The next-highest rates
among flagship schools were found at the University of New Hampshire
(66 percent), the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill (66
percent), the University of California-Berkeley (64 percent) and
the University of Delaware (64 percent).
U.Va. President John T. Casteen III hailed the news: “African-American
students come to us in large numbers from families and schools
that have made serious commitments to them from early childhood.
They bring their talents, their enthusiasms and convictions, their
ambitions, and their determination to succeed, and indeed they
“Each graduating student is a personal success story. Together,
these students have proved by their successes that they can take
on the hardest challenges, overcome them and move on into the
adult mainstream to take their places as leaders, and makers,
and women and men who are at once thoughtful and creative.
“I share their families’ and their professors’
great pride in their accomplishments.”
In the article accompanying the rankings, the journal cited U.Va.
for its orientation and retention programs for African-American
The journal lists several other factors that boost black students’
success at top-ranked universities, including favorable racial
climates, locations near African-American population centers,
a critical mass of black students on campus, curricular issues
and the availability of financial aid.
M. Rick Turner, dean of U.Va.’s Office of African American
Affairs, said the University’s ranking is the result of
a collaborative effort. His office works hand-in-hand with the
Office of Admission, alumni and even current students’ parents
to recruit top black students, he said. The OAAA’s Peer
Advising Program assigns mentors to admitted students even before
they arrive. On the first day they move in, they are welcomed
by Turner, Casteen and a Board of Visitors member.
“We don’t stop after the first year,” Turner
said. “We continually monitor the progress of African-American
“They see this as a welcoming, nurturing institution, in
spite of our occasional issues,” Turner said. “And
we don’t hide from those issues.” When racial issues
are raised, they are confronted, discussed and used as “teachable
moments,” he said.
Amherst College was credited with having the nation’s top
black graduation rate in the country at 95 percent. The top 17
schools in the rankings were private, selective institutions.
At. U.Va., the 333 African-American students made up 11.8 percent
of the entering class in 1996-97, according to NCAA statistics.