Looks worth more than education?

The national graduation rate for African-Americans is 43 percent, according to statistics. 

Meanwhile, the rate at Florida A&M is 35 percent, which is a significant decline from the 44 percent rate in 1996.

Many people have one question: Why? For such a prominent university that purports to breed many successful African-American students, the graduation rate is shocking but more importantly, disappointing. 

When stepping on the campus of FAMU for the first time, an individual is swept away by the initial closeness of the student population. It’s a small community of more than 13,000 students, so it is easy for everyone to know each other. 

Students glide around campus as if on top of the world—women strut in six-inch heels like professionals on a mission. The feeling of being on top is overwhelming but well deserved for African-Americans in this country considering that only 20 percent actually attend an institution of higher education.

But more often than not, young people, especially college students, tend to lose focus on the brighter things in life. They allow themselves to be distracted by the glitz and glamour of being “free” in college: the Set, parties and fashion. 

FAMU is usually known as a “fashion school,” where students are on a daily mission to satisfy their physical attributes by wearing the latest styles. Modeling troupes often organize events on the Set that give them the opportunity to dress up and walk the “runway.” 

The campus publications have spreads that represent the do’s and don’ts of today’s fashion world while also shining light on students with style.

Is the massive promotion of high fashion, popularity, and the college social life the cause of FAMU’s declining graduation rates? According to Elan Rashad, 21, an economics student from Michigan, yes.

“It’s a mess. It’s sad and there needs to be something done about it,” Rashad said. “I understand we love fashion but this is not a school of the arts. This is a four-year accredited institution of higher education.” 

Because of the numbers, Rashad believes publicity should be catered to the education advancement of the students  and  advising them on ways to reach graduation. 

Some students feel as if the administration is to blame for not enforcing the importance of taking advantage of receiving a higher education. 

The target of all the “mess:” freshmen. 

“They arrive here and they’re not worried about classes and getting serious about their college education,” said Bianca Jones, 21, a psychology student from Miramar, Fla. 

“They’re more concerned with dressing up, turning class into a fashion show, and being on the social scene so their name is out there.” 

Therefore, a solution is not far from reach. All we have to do is advocate to the younger crowd that education is far more important than looking fly because not only will they suffer as an individual but—so will their race. 

African-Americans have come a long way from the 1800’s, when we literally were not granted the opportunity to obtain an elementary school education. They were outraged and fought for equality until it was finally granted. FAMU was established in 1887 with 15 students and two professors. This university was built by those who wanted to advance themselves as a people. And this is what allowed them to prosper. 

Although many people feel that this desire has been lost, it can be regained. With the help of everyone we can get back on the track we initially started on and strive to be the number one HBCU in the country. 

It is important to understand the struggle of the African American people so that we, students of today, can appreciate our growth to 620 professors, more than 13,000 students and the 420 acres of land we can now call our own.