FAMU leads nation in number of African-American grads
By SHANNON COLAVECCHIO-VAN SICKLER
Published June 8, 2007
Troubled Florida A&M University got a welcome bit of good news this week: In spite of declining student enrollment, the historically black institution remains the nation's No. 1 producer of bachelor's degrees for African-Americans.
That's according to the latest issue of the journal Diverse Issues in Education, which based its rankings on the number of undergraduate degrees awarded in the 2005-06 academic year.
FAMU, plagued in recent years with financial management woes and unstable leadership, retained the No. 1 spot even though the number of degrees awarded between 2004-05 and 2005-06 declined by 3 percent, to 1, 224.
"As the top producers of African-American undergraduates, a distinction that we have enjoyed for several years now, it is clear that FAMU is making an important difference to society, " said FAMU chief executive officer Larry Robinson.
FAMU's overall enrollment rose under longtime president Frederick Humphries and peaked at 13, 070 in fall 2004, 2 1/2 years after Humphries' departure.
But enrollment has been in decline ever since. It was 11, 913 in fall 2006 and less than 11, 000 this past spring.
Moreover, FAMU has trouble retaining the students who do enroll. Freshman full-time enrollment was up by about 15 percent last fall, for example, according to former interim president Castell Bryant. But sophomore enrollment declined by about 4 percent, suggesting students are dropping out or finishing their degrees elsewhere.
Reversing that trend will be a priority for James Ammons, the former FAMU provost who takes over as president next month. Ammons, still president at North Carolina Central University, could not be reached Thursday.
Most of the top 10 universities on the "Diverse Issues in Education" list are, like FAMU, historically black institutions. But two of Florida's other public universities, Florida State and Florida Atlantic, made the top 10.
FAU, based in Boca Raton, saw its bachelor's degrees for black students jump 24 percent, to 848. FSU, located near FAMU in Tallahassee, produced 931 bachelor's degrees for African-American students in 2005-06, a 15 percent increase from the previous year.
FSU provost Larry Abele said the increase reflects a broad strategy for recruiting and retaining first-generation students, most of whom are minorities.
The university identifies middle school students who are strong enough academically to be potential FSU students, and once enrolled there, they arrive on campus a week early to meet with advisers and get advice on study skills and the transition from high school to college.
Meanwhile, there's one area where universities - Florida's included - still struggle: enrolling and retaining black men.
Of FAMU's 1, 224 degrees in 2005-06, fewer than 500 went to black men. Less than a third of FSU's and FAU's went to black men.Shannon Colavecchio-Van Sickler can be reached at 813 226-3403 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Schools with most black grads
Top 10 producers of bachelor's degrees for African-Americans:
|FAMU||1, 262||1, 224||-3.0|
|Howard||1, 186||1, 202||+1.3|
|Georgia St.||1, 082||1, 119||+3.4|
|Southern Univ. and A&M||890||947||+6.4|
|American Intercontinental Online||682||913||+33.8|
|N.C. A&T St.||896||887||-1.0|