A new college ranking, designed to help students and their parents
evaluate an institution’s academic and social appeal for African
Americans, hits newsstands.
A new list ranking the nation’s “Top 50” colleges for
African American students is attracting attention from list-leary
academics and rekindling debate over the merits of ratings.
The list, featured in this month’s Black Enterprise magazine, could
influence the decisions made by more than 500,000 African American
freshmen who will start college next year.
Published by Black Enterprise magazine and DayStar Research, the
list ranked Spelman College and Morehouse College first and second
respectively. Another Atlanta institution, Clark Atlanta University,
was ranked fourth.
The list, developed by Dr. Thomas LaVeist, a sociologist and an
associate professor of health policy and management at Johns Hopkins
University, was designed to help make choosing a school less daunting
for today’s college-bound African American students and their parents.
LaVeist asked 1,077 African American higher education professionals
to rate colleges by the academic and social environments that are
provided for African American students.
Florida A&M University, last year’s Time magazine “College of
the Year,” ranked third on the Black Enterprise/DayStar list. The other
institutions filling out the top ten are: Howard University,
Washington, D.C.; Xavier University, New Orleans; Hampton University,
Hampton, Va.; Tuskeegee University, Tuskegee, Ala.; North Carolina
A&T University, Greensboro, N.C.; and Stanford University, Palo
HBCU’s in general scored high marks on the list. While they
accounted for only 10 percent of all the colleges LaVeist surveyed,
they represented nearly 50 percent of the colleges on the list.
Nationally, HBCU’s enroll approximately 35 percent of all Black college
Black Enterprise joins the list of magazines, including U.S. News
and World Report and Money that publish popular editions ranking
colleges and universities. Although college and university officials
dislike the lists, they recognize that students and parents use the
lists to select college.
“Oh God,” groaned Joyce Smith, executive director of the National
Association of Admissions Counselors, when she learned of the list.
Smith said she feared anxious students and parents might put too much
stock in it without doing their own research.
“We all pay attention but I think this type of information has to
be used responsibly. I don’t mean to take anything away from the
research but the whole notion that college selection can be reduced to
a kind of Consumer Reports diminishes the need for students and their
families to find out what’s the best match.”
To be included on the list, a school had to be an accredited
four-year college with a Black enrollment of at least 1.5 percent, or
be large enough and well-known enough to attract interest from Black
students. Schools were divided into categories such as national
universities, national liberal arts colleges, regional universities,
and regional liberal arts colleges.
Audrey Forbes Manley, M.D., who became president of top-ranked
Spelman last October, is delighted with her institution’s rating.
“It’s great news for us. We’re very pleased and very proud that
Black Enterprise has validated what we at Spelman have long believed
and it also underscores the role HBCUs have in providing opportunities
for African American students.”
Patrick Swygert, president of fifth-ranked Howard University,
predicted that “every university on the list will see that it’s
distributed and put into their admissions packets. I hope it encourages
institutions to strive to make it to the top 50.”
Perhaps sensing the disagreement that lists like this often
generate, LaVeist is quick to point out that even though an institution
may not have made the list, that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t offer a
nurturing environment for African American students.
“I expect there are going to be some schools that question the ranking,” he says.
“You have to remember, there are more than 3,200 colleges and
universities in the country. There are a lot of excellent schools that
are not going to be on the list, but that’s not to say they wouldn’t be
good schools for African American students,” LaVeist continues.
LaVeist, 37, says it was while he was a graduate student teacher at
the University of Michigan that he first recognized the need for a tool
that African American students could use in selecting a college.
LaVeist cautions those who will use the list that it’s merely a
guide and that other factors — like a student’s personality, financial
needs, and academic interests — must also be considered.
“This list is meant to help people separate perception from reality
so they can make an informed decision,” LaVeist says. “But making that
decision should involve the student, their parents, and a trusted
adviser — someone who knows the student.”
The energetic researcher’s next project is a college guide for
African-American students to be published in 1999 by Stanley Kaplan and
Simon & Schuster publishers. Although the book won’t rank colleges
and universities, it will draw from surveys of African American
The book will be the first Kaplan guide targeted specifically to African American students.
RELATED ARTICLE: The Black Enterprise Top 50
1 Spelman College 2 Morehouse College 3 Florida A&M University
4 Clark Atlanta University 5 Howard University 6 Xavier University 7
Hampton University 8 Tuskegee University 9 North Carolina A&T
University 10 Stanford University 11 Georgetown University 12 Oberlin
College 13 Swarthmore College 14 Vassar College 15 Columbia University
16 Emory University 17 Amherst College 18 Johnson C. Smith University
19 University of North Carolina 20 Duke University 21 Morgan State
University 22 Wesleyan University 23 Fisk University 24 Tennessee State
University 25 Bryn Mawr College 26 Florida State University 27
Bethune-Cookman College 28 Harvard University 29 Johns Hopkins
University 30 Univ. of Southern California 31 North Carolina Central
Univ. 32 Morris Brown College 33 Southern University 34 University of
Pennsylvania 35 Williams College 36 George Washington University 37
Dillard University 38 Jackson State University 39 Grambling State
University 40 Wellesley College 41 Yale University 42 Univ. of
California Los Angeles 43 New York University 44 Smith College 45 Mass.
Institute of Technology 46 Mount Holyoke College 47 Lincoln University
48 South Carolina State University 49 Alabama A&M University 50
RELATED ARTICLE: PUBLISHER’S NOTE
Why We Avoid Subjective Rankings
With the notoriety surrounding the recent publication of Black
Enterprise’s ranking of the “50 Best Institutions for African
Americans,” many of you asked why Black Issues didn’t undertake such a
project? Back in 1990, as we prepared our first Top 100 edition, we
considered alternative ranking methods. After much consultation and
consideration we decided that the only legitimate measure was the
number and percentage of Black students who actually graduate and are
retained at the over 3,400 colleges and universities in America.
For instance, the retention rates for Black students at Harvard
University, the University of Virginia and Bennett College compare
favorably to the retention rates of the majority of the schools on the
Black Enterprise list.
We applaud any and all efforts that result in a heightened
awareness of the issues surrounding Black access and success in higher
education, and congratulate those schools that made the Black
Enterprise list. But as far as certifying them as being the “best,”
Frank L. Matthews, Publisher
William E. Cox, President
COPYRIGHT 1998 Cox, Matthews & Associates
© Copyright 2005 by DiverseEducation.com