Decline In African American Students at UVa

By: Autria Godfrey
By: Autria Godfrey

October 13, 2006

When "Black Enterprise" magazine listed the University of Virginia as one of the best schools in the nation for African Americans, the outlook for an increase in black enrollment was promising.

But as the numbers for students comprising this fall's student body came in, there was a noticeable decrease in the black population.

"We are trying to recruit the same students that many of our competitor institutions are trying to recruit and for us that means not just the best public institutions in the country it also means the best private institutions in the country," William Harvey said, Vice President and Chief Officer for Diversity and Equity.

The number of incoming black freshman dropped nearly 19% from last year, leading admissions officers to survey those students that denied the university. One issue that arose, the series of racial incidents last year at UVa.

"There were some that did express concern about the racial climate, some perceptions that they might have heard about things that had happened," Assistant Dean of Admissions, Valerie Gregory said.

Despite student's concern over the racial environment, administrators say they fall short when it comes to promoting the attributes unique to African Americans.
In particular, a course taught by NAACP Chairman Julian Bond.

"Julian was very active in the civil rights movement, was a close associate to Dr. Martin Luther King, teaches a course in civil rights history here. This is a chance for first year students, 19-year-old students to actually sit across the table and hear from somebody who was actively involved in the civil rights movement," Harvey continued.

One new approach? Get them while they're young.
"I'm seeing that we probably need to start letting students know that we're really interested in them even as early as their 9Th grade or 10Th grade year," Gregory said.

The university just recently hosted their Fall Fling, where prospective students visit the university. They said close to 900 students attended and blacks comprised a large number of those and based on past experience the correlation between campus visits and enrollment is high.

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