by James A. Bacon
As debate rages in the comments section of Bacon’s Rebellion over the legitimacy of the demands made by African-American student activists at Virginia Commonwealth University last week, I asked myself whether differential graduation rates between different race/ethnicities might be playing a role in the frustration experienced by the student militants. The answer is, probably not. What I found instead was an upbeat story, which, though a few years old, reflects well upon the VCU administration — and, to my mind, represents exactly the kind of policy the university ought to be pursuing.
A pair of reports issued by The Education Trust in 2012 found that VCU had eliminated the graduation gap between African-American and white students between 2004 and 2010, raising the black graduation rate from 34.5% to 49.8%. VCU ranked 16th nationally on the list of “Top 25 Gainers in African-American Student Graduation Rates among Public Institutions,” according to a report summary prepared by the VCU news office. Results improved for Hispanic students as well.
The key to success? VCU’s University College, a program that prepares entering students for college-level work.
“Our Focused Inquiry Program helps new students experience a college curriculum in a very short time,” said Joseph Marolla, vice provost for instruction and student success. From the article:
The Focused Inquiry I and II courses are the central component of the University College curriculum. Those courses target oral and written communication, critical thinking and problem solving, the development of quantitative abilities, information retrieval and evaluation and collaborative work.