UVA leads public universities in graduating black students
According to the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, UVA leads the nation’s public universities in graduation rates for blacks. In a recent study by the journal, the university graduated 86 percent of its black students in a six-year period. At many state universities, only 60 percent or less of blacks end up graduating.
So what’s UVA’s secret? In a recent New York Times article, 19-year old undergrad Courtney White credits the university’s peer adviser program. The program, organized by the Office of African-American Affairs, matches each new student with an upper-class mentor who coaches and encourages the new student. According to White and other students, the program provides a “comfort zone” in a “largely white environment in which racial tensions still exist.”
Of course, there is one other important factor as well.
Bruce Slater, the managing editor of the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, told the Times that UVA graduated so many blacks because of the financial assistance it gives. In 2004, UVA started giving grants instead of loans to low-income and middle-income students.
"The fact that (black students) don't have to worry about money,” Slater said, “ definitely contributes to the higher graduation rate."
UVA’s first black undergraduates were not admitted until 1955. In 1935, a black female applied to UVA but was rejected "because the education of white and colored persons in the same schools is contrary to the long-established and fixed policy of the Commonwealth of Virginia." In 1950, a black student won a federal lawsuit he filed after being denied admission to the UVA Law School, but it wasn’t until five years later that the first black student entered the engineering school. And it wasn’t until eleven years later that the first black student entered the College of Arts and Sciences. The university set up its Office of African-American Affairs in 1976 in response to racial tension on grounds, and created the mentoring program in 1984.