African American Baccalaureates Surge by 30% From 1991 to 1995
Florida A&M Moves to The Top of the List With Annual Increase of 27%
Almost 20,000 more African Americans received baccalaureate degrees
in 1995 compared to 1991. This represents a 30.2 percent increase in
the number of African American college graduates, from 64,556 in 1991
to 84,108 in 1995.
“That’s good news,” said Dr. Reginald Wilson, director of the
minority office for the American Council on Education, about the higher
numbers of African American baccalaureates.
Dr. Michael Nettles, author of The African American Education Data
Book published by The College Fund/UNCF, agreed, saying, “That’s
phenomenal growth. African American progress in higher education is
steady. The outlook is bright.”
These numbers are the findings of Black Issues In Higher Education’s
sixth annual “Top 100” rankings in which colleges are ranked according
to the number of degrees they confer on African Americans, Hispanic
Americans, Asian Americans and Native Americans (see pg. 44).
According to Wilson, African American women have been driving the increase.
“For African American men, there has been an incremental increase of
2,000 [new baccalaureates] a year, but African American women have
gained by 4,000 a year,” said Wilson.
During the same period of time, the number of whites receiving
baccalaureate degrees declined slightly, meaning that African Americans
represent a larger percentage of the college-going population.
About 28.2 percent of the new graduates attended historically Black
colleges and universities (HBCUs), a very slight increase over the 27.8
percent who graduated from HBCUs in 1991.
The figures contained several surprises – from the sheer numbers of
African American baccalaureates to the fact that Howard University is
no longer the top producer of African American baccalaureates. In 1995,
that honor went to Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, a
historically Black university in Tallahassee, Florida.
Florida A&M (FAMU) took a giant step from 1991 to 1995,
increasing its number of baccalaureate degrees conferred from 463 to
1,222. That increase was largely due to an increase in enrollment of
almost 2,000 students – from 8,100 in 1990 to 10,395 in 1996 – and an
increase in graduation rates.
“That is great news,” said Dr. James H. Ammons, provost at FAMU,
upon hearing that his university had graduated the most African
American; baccalaureates of any school. “Our hard work is paying off.
The faculty, the support staff, the people in the laboratories, the
people in our retention programs, should be very proud.”
Ammons attributed the increase in the number of bachelor’s degrees
granted to “dedicated and committed faculty who have raised the
academic bar. They have challenged students and they have supported
them in meeting those challenges. In addition to that, through the
leadership of [FAMU president] Dr. [Freddie] Humphries, we have been
able to recruit to the campus an outstanding student body that is
well-prepared when they get here. Anti we have been able to sustain
them through graduation.”
Said Humphries: “We’re very proud of our accomplishment but we’re
not happy. We really want to get to 2,500 baccalaureate degrees. We’re
just half-way home.”
Humphries said that his goal is to reach 15,000 enrolled students by
the year 2000. One way he is planning to reach that goal is through
partnerships with Florida community colleges. As an example, he pointed
to Miami-Dade Community College, which was the number one producer of
minority community college graduates. It offers an associate degree in
computer technology. However, according to Humphries, many of its
students are unable to leave Dade County to pursue a bachelor’s degree.
“We have set up a program to help them finish their four-year degrees,” Humphries said.
City College of New York (CUNY) York College president, Dr. Charles
C. Kidd Sr. who was an administrator for seventeen years before going
to York College last year, agreed that FAMU has been doing “aggressive
and active recruitment.” He has brought those same techniques to York
College, he said, which is number eight among the non-HBCUs in
graduating African Americans.
Humphries has spent much effort in recruiting the most National
Achievement Scholars (top African American SAT scorers) of any
institution. Until 1992, Harvard University had always held that honor,
but in 1992 and 1995, FAMU attracted the most National Achievement
Scholars. In 1996, Howard University won that distinction.
Eddie Jackson, assistant vice president for university relations,
said that part of FAMU’s mission was to restore the place of
historically Black colleges and universities. “It’s important to
demonstrate to the nation that historically Black colleges are viable
and that African American students will return to HBCUs,” he said.
Howard University spokesman Alan Hermesch echoed that sentiment:
“Howard University is very pleased with the data that indicate that
historically Black colleges and universities continue to award
increasing numbers of degrees to Black students as well as bring
increasing success to Black students nationwide,” he said. He pointed
out that even though FAMU now awards more baccalaureate degrees to
African American students, “Howard University continues to award more
degrees, undergraduate, graduate, and professional – in more
disciplines – to more African Americans than any other university in
City College, also part of the CUNY system, was the top producer of
African American baccalaureates of those colleges that are not HBCUs.
It went from conferring 366 bachelor’s degrees on African Americans in
1991 to conferring 570 in 1995.
Charles DeCicco, director of public relations of City College, said,
“City College is doing what it has done for the past 150 years,
providing an opportunity for those who might not otherwise have been
able to attend college to obtain a first rate-education.”
City University’s colleges occupied several of the top spots in
terms of baccalaureate degrees conferred on minorities, particularly
African Americans. Chancellor of the CUNY system, W. Ann Reynolds,
attributed CUNY’s success to the “university’s emphasis in recent years
on greater academic preparation, intensive remediation at the
pre-freshman level, and retention.”
The institution that granted the most baccalaureate degrees to all
minorities combined was the University of California-Los Angeles, which
conferred 2,880 bachelor’s degrees on minority students in 1995. Of
those, almost two-thirds – 1,882 – were Asian American; 727 were
Hispanic; 245 were African American; and 53 were American Indian.
“Certainly, we can be very, very pleased,” said Dr. Claudia
Mitchell-Kernan, vice chancellor for academic affairs for UCLA. But she
cautioned, “To the extent that the indicator you are using conflates
underrepresented minorities with Asians who are not underrepresented,
it is my hope that our ranking will not obscure this problem for those
of us here at UCLA who continue to be concerned about overall
diversity. In some areas of the country putting those two groups
together is different from California, where we have a very successful
Asian-American population in terms of enrollment, graduation and so
The institution that granted the most baccalaureate degrees to Asian
Americans was the University of Hawaii at Manoa – 1,882 in 1995 –
followed by three University of California colleges.
Florida International University granted the most baccalaureate degrees to Hispanics – 1,730 in 1995.
Northeastern State University in Oklahoma awarded the most baccalaureate degrees to Native Americans – 230 in 1995.
Although he greeted the news of the increases in African American
baccalaureates with pleasure, ACE’s Wilson warned that the optimistic
figures on college graduation come with a “rain cloud.”
“I hope I am wrong, but I’m pretty sure we will see a downward trend
in the next few years. Colleges are not keeping up with what’s going on
with the courts and the states. At the University of California, the
decline in enrollment is going to be devastating,” said Wilson.
UCLA’s Mitchell-Kernan agreed, adding that the predicted decline is
inevitable “unless outreach programs are enormously successful – and
[currently] we are undecided on what outreach strategies we will
Mitchell-Kernan said she is concerned that because of California’s
Proposition 209, which banned all forms of race-based affirmative
action in college admissions, minority students will find the
University of California unwelcoming in the future.
“The University of California is a very selective institution,
recruiting the top 12 and a half percent at the undergraduate level,”
she said. “We must therefore ask ourselves the question whether we have
created an environment likely to attract the same segment among
minorities. I fear we have not.”
The College Fund’s Nettles was less pessimistic. “That could just
mean a shift,” he said, of students who leave California to attend
“There is some cause for concern in the nation’s most selective
public universities because of the events in Texas with Hopwood and in
the referendum in California. But the signs of a decline are not
apparent. There is no basis for projecting gloomy days ahead for
African Americans in higher education.”
Nettles continued: “I’m not one to tell you that it’s raining when the sun is shining. And it’s a beautiful day.”
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