Making the Grade

U.S. News and World Report magazine recently released a list of their rankings of the best black universities for 2008. Although Florida A&M University has been crowned number one on other lists throughout the years, it was recently placed at number 13 out of 34 universities.

The list was compiled based on peer assessments from other universities and their officials, graduation and retention rates, faculty resources, student selectivity, financial resources and alumni giving.

After all of the information was gathered from each category, FAMU received a score of 52 out of 100.

Last year, Diverse Issues magazine named FAMU the nation’s No. 1 producer of blacks with baccalaureate degrees on their top 100 list.

In 2006, Black Enterprise magazine named FAMU as the No.1 University for blacks to attend. The University also received similar number one rankings in other publications throughout the years.

In 2000, FAMU was named as the perennial leader for the recruitment of National Achievement Scholars, in 1997 FAMU was named college of the year by the Time magazine/Princeton Review board.

Despite previous top ratings from various publications and organizations, many FAMU students find the ranking unacceptable, especially since they are used to hearing about the school being named number one in other publications.

“I think we need to do better,” said Marjorie Gaudin, 19, a sophomore nursing student from West Orange, N.J. “If we can be number one on other lists, we should be number one on all lists.”

Lynada Peeples, 21, chief of staff for FAMU’s student government association said she thinks that FAMU is still number one.

“I don’t care what anyone says, FAMU is number one,” said the senior finance student from Brandon, a suburb of Tampa.

Out of the 34 schools on the list, FAMU had one of the three lowest graduation rates, with an average of 33 percent.

Peeples said this is due in part to the university’s graduate programs, which are designed for students to graduate later.

“Students take so long to graduate because of our graduate programs,” Peeples said. “The pharmacy program takes about six years, and the SBI program takes five years.”

Peeples defended the low graduation rate scoring, but admits that freshman retention is an issue at the university.

“I think that retention in freshman [enrollment] is something plaguing our university,” Peeples said. “Some students can’t stay in school because of monetary issues, and some just aren’t prepared for college.”

Danielle Kennedy-Lamar, the associate vice president of enrollment management at FAMU, doesn’t believe that the university deserved its ranking despite its problems.

“I don’t think that the ranking is deserving of the university,” Kennedy-Lamar said. “None of the things that we have been cited for have anything to do with academics.”

Kennedy-Lamar said she believes that the rankings were based in part on the financial difficulties that the university faced last year.

“At the time that peer institutions were ranking us, there was a lot of controversy going on,” Kennedy-Lamar said. “When there’s a lot of controversy there are a lot of questions in people’s minds. I’m sure this played a huge role in how our peers rated our institution.”

The lower ranking may not be making people happy, but Kennedy-Lamar said she doesn’t believe that it should affect the morale of faculty and students.

“That’s one ranking,” Kennedy-Lamar said. “There’s so much positive in the university. When you have so many number one rankings to fall back on, this just becomes one of many.”

Kennedy-Lamar disagrees with the U.S. News and World Report’s ranking of the university, and said she feels that FAMU is still the number one black university in the country.

“Of course I would put FAMU at number one,” Kennedy-Lamar said. “The students are exceptional. They are academically gifted, socially aware and astute, civilly engaged, and no matter what area you put them in they always excel.”