A High Black Student Graduation Rate Is Not Enough

A new paper, published by researchers at the University of Virginia in a special edition of the Peabody Journal of Education on advising and mentoring African Americans in higher education, takes the position that high graduation rates for Black students should not be only focus of university administrators seeking to advance the progress of African Americans in our society. Equally important, according to the authors of the study, is graduating African American students with a high grade point average (GPA) that will enable them to compete for places at the nation’s top graduate and professional schools and for the top positions in corporate America.

The University of Virginia consistently posts the highest Black student graduation rate of any state-operated university in the country. And this rate has remained relatively constant over the past 20 years. But the university has shown significant success in improving the academic success of students in terms of GPA. The average GPA of first-year students has risen significantly in recent years as has the number of first-year students with very high GPAs. Concurrently, the percentage of students with GPAs below 2.0 has been significantly reduced. The authors cite a number of reasons for the improvement including a safety net counseling program in the Office of African American Affairs that offers tutoring, study groups, mentoring, advising, and help with course selection.

Maurice Apprey is the lead author of the article and served as guest editor for the special issue of the Peabody Journal of Education. He is dean of African-American affairs and professor of psychiatric medicine and neurobehavioral sciences in the School of Medicine at the University of Virginia. Dr. Apprey has been on the faculty at the University of Virginia since 1980. He holds doctorate from the Saybrook Institute in San Francisco and the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.

The table of contents of the special issue and access to the articles can be found here.

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