FAMU plans to improve retention

Florida A&M’s six-year graduation rate has jumped from a five-year low of 39 percent for the class of 2007 to 41 percent for 2009,according to the FAMU Integrated Postsecondary Educational Data System (IPEDS).

Retention is an issue not only at FAMU but other historically black colleges and universities. Director of retention, William Hudson, has been placed in his position to help improve the rates.

“Poor retention rates usually are attributed to a student’s lack of information, lack of preparation, laziness and sometimes financial reasons,” Hudson said.

The graduation rate at a significant number of historically black colleges and universities is above the nationwide average for black student graduation, which is 43 percent according to the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education.

According to the JBHE, Spelman College has the highest black student graduation rate of any HBCU.

The graduation rate at Spelman is higher for black students than some of the nation’s leading predominantly white schools such as University of California Los Angeles, University of Michigan and Berkeley. FAMU’s 2007 graduation rate is 42 percent according to the JBHE.

The journal’s recent data has shown that at 20 HBCUs two-thirds or more of all entering black students do not go on to earn a diploma and the lowest graduation rate was at the University of the District of Columbia; where only 8 percent of entering freshmen go on to earn a bachelor’s degree.

According to the IPEDS, FAMU’s 2009-2010 lower undergraduate enrollment, that includes students with less than 60 credit hours, is 5,632. The upper undergraduate enrollment, students with over 60 credit hours, is 3,170.

According to the Board of Trustees Oct. 14 meeting minutes, 80 percent of FAMU students are in the lower division.

According to the JBHE many of the students that are enrolled in these institutions come from low-income households, most of these in which the student is the first generation in college.

Hudson has a three-tiered strategy for increasing the productivity of the university’s program in order to boost FAMU’s graduation rate.

First is recruitment.

Hudson said, ” FAMU must first recruit and admit with a higher standard that the students coming in from high school have to be taking remedial or college preparatory classes.”

The second is progression. Hudson’s strategy involves creating programs to help support the students such as mandatory tutoring sessions assigned by teachers.

“Even though going to tutoring sessions in the math lab takes away from my free time, I guess it’s going to come in handy in the future,” said Toby Shelton, 21, second-year computer science student from Ft. Lauderdale.

The final phase would be graduation and that consists of making sure the student is in compliance with state standards on academic progression and is on the right track to have a successful career in their desired fields of study.