In a study administered in September by the University office of institutional research, retention and graduation rates at FAMU were higher than peer institutions such as the University of North Florida and the University of West Florida.
The University had a 70 percent retention rate for its fourth-year students while UNF had a retention rate of 55 percent, and UWF had 51 percent. After six years of attending post-secondary institutions, statistics show that FAMU graduation rates were at 44 percent, UNF 41 percent and UWF 37 percent.
Devoni Williams, a 21-year-old senior English student from Tampa is not surprised by the data.
“FAMU is a good school. Aside from academic life, there are a lot of extra-curricular activities that go on too,” she said.
Herman Brann, associate vice president for institutional research, said that FAMU should be proud of the statistics.
“We start off with students who tend to have lower GPA’s and SAT scores, but we end up having higher retention and graduation rates than other schools,” he said.
North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University in Greensboro, reported that in 2001 out of its 1,760 first-time-in-college freshmen, 76 percent of them returned the following year. In 2002, that percentage dropped to 67.
Both Howard University and Tennessee State University, both Historically Black Colleges or Universitys, were unavailable to comment on their graduation and retention rates at the time of publication.
Nationwide, the college graduation rate of white students in Division I schools is 50 percent higher than that of blacks.
Experts said this disparity exists because of the lack of funding blacks are able to receive and the types of resources available to black students.
“If we (at the University) could improve our resources, funding and scholarships, the quality of students that attended the school would be better,” Brann said.
Mary White, a 22-year-old criminal justice senior from Chicago said many students are not able to graduate because of the costs associated with going to college, and their lackadaisical attitudes toward getting an education.
“Most students can’t pay fees and a lot of students don’t understand how serious school is and they flunk out,” she said.
Brann mentioned that another determining factor in the graduation rate was the quality of high school that students attended before college.
“In order to improve our output (the number of students who matriculate and graduate), we have to improve our input,” he said.
One initiative aimed at promoting student academic progression, retention and graduation at the University is the Freshman/Sophomore Experience program.
Dorothy Henderson, dean of general studies, said the program was created because the faculty wanted to help students.
“We are concerned about our students and through this program, we will help more students remain at the University,” she said.
Through a University-wide academic advisement program, freshman and sophomores are advised carefully so that they may enroll in the correct classes that will help them to graduate on time. The program offers other components such as a lecture series, tutorial support and mid-term conferences to ensure their success.
“In the next two years, we hope to improve progression and retention by a significant amount. In five years, we hope to have improved graduation rates by at least 10 percent,” Henderson said.
Chinyere Ogbonna, a 22-year-old senior industrial engineering student from Houston said the program will increase the number of students that graduate from FAMU.
“With this program, the advisers are probably able to keep in touch with the students better and keep up with them throughout the semester,” she said.
Brann said the University should be commended for its high rates.
“We should praise our faculty and community who are able to take our students and make sure that they succeed.”
He also said that when people analyze data for information pertaining to graduation and retention rates, it is unfair to place the University in the same category with such schools as the University of Florida and FSU.
“Many do not realize it, but people have to break the mentality of comparing us to those schools,” Brann said. “Those schools are larger and have a greater amount of funding.”
The office of institutional research is preparing another study to show how the University compares to other HBCU’s retention and graduation rates.
Contact Danielle Lewis at firstname.lastname@example.org.