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University Of Virginia Tops Journal’s Survey Of African-American Graduation Rates For The 10th Straight Year

December 10, 2003 -- For the 10th straight year, the University of Virginia posted the nation’s highest African-American graduation rate among major public institutions, according to an annual survey published this week by the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education.

Using six-year graduation rates compiled by the National Collegiate Athletic Association, the journal’s current issue credits U.Va. with graduating 85 percent of the African-American students who entered in the fall of 1996. 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 said.

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). The journal noted that “large state universities educate three-fourths of all African-American college students in the United States.”

University President John T. Casteen III hailed the news.

“African-American students have been one of the great success stories here at the University of Virginia,” he said. “They 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 do succeed — as this year's new calculation of graduation rates attests.

“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 students.

The journal lists several other factors as possible explanations for 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 students.

“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 top black graduation rate in the country at 95 percent, followed by Colgate, Harvard and Princeton universities (each with 92 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.

Contact: Carol Wood, (434) 924-6189

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Contact the Office of University Relations at (434) 924-7116. Television reporters should contact the TV News Office at (434) 924-7550.

SOURCE: U.Va. News Services


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