University status questionable

In the fall 0f 2006, Black Enterprise magazine named FAMU the No. 1 college for black students, but after the press conference held in front of Lee Hall Auditorium, many faculty and students became wary about the result.

The magazine’s August 2006 issue announced its 2006 annual list of the Top 50 Colleges for African Americans.

Sociology professor Emitt Hunt expressed concern over the factors used to rank the schools.

“With criteria so narrow, many of FAMU’s contenders were pushed down or off of the list completely,” Hunt said. Some of the variables used in the study included black student graduation rates, the schools’ academic and social environment and total black undergraduate enrollment.

Schools that were ranked on the Black Enterprise Top College list in 2004 were automatically considered. That year, FAMU ranked No. 6.

According to the magazine, many of the historically black colleges and universities that received high rankings on the 2004 list dropped much lower rankings on the 2006 list.

The magazine interviewed more than 500 university presidents, chancellors and directors of student affairs in order to develop the list, according to

One concern about the survey is it included the opinions of the administration, but paid little attention to the rest of the faculty.

“Many of (the professors) were not included,” Hunt said.Although Hunt was not disappointed by the decision to put FAMU at the top of the list, he named the lack of faculty and students’ opinions as one reason that some people may feel the survey did not cover all areas.

The graduation rate is another factor that has caused some people to question whether Black Enterprise’s decision was unjustified.

Most of the public institutions on the list graduated less than half its black students on average, but private HBCUs, like Spelman with a 77 percent graduation rate and Howard at 62 percent, managed to produce higher numbers.

With an enrollment of 10, 731 black students in the fall 2006 semester, FAMU was put at an advantage over its competitors. However, the University could only manage to graduate 43 percent of its black students.

Student Government Association President Phillip Agnew, 21, attributed the dwindling numbers to the fact that many students simply do not have the adequate funds to make t through their first two years of college.

“We are implementing a number of institutions that will help to assist students in different areas,” said the fourth-year business administration student from Chicago. “Creating more need-based financial aid is a great concern of ours.”

Revamping the housing system is another way he said the administration is trying to help.

“We’re working to make it easier for students to stay here at the school, and a big part of that lies in creating adequate living and resident assistance,” Agnew said.

Assisting freshmen and sophomores who are having difficulty adjusting to college life is another way the school plans to increase the retention rate.

“We will provide counseling to those who are having trouble,” Agnew said.

Agnew, SGA Vice President Monique Gillum and Barbara Oguntade, coordinator of the general studies skill center, hosted the Freshman and Sophomore Year Experience Seminar Jan. 24. The seminar focused on ways freshmen and sophomores can increase their chances of achieving academic success.

During the 16th session of the 36th Student Senate, Gillum raised the topic of a potential plan by the Board of Governors to create bachelor’s degree-only institutions within Florida’s 11 universities. She said FAMU, which was the target of the same plan in 1998, might be a target for the plan because graduation rates are low.

The importance of increasing the school’s retention is a top priority, Agnew said, and the administration is doing what it can to ensure there will be change.

“The system is far from perfect, but the school is doing its best to work on it,” he said.