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Brown rises to No. 19 in Black Enterprise rankings

Thursday, September 14, 2006

U.S. News and World Report may have lowered its view of Brown in the past two years, but the University recently fared better in a less-publicized evaluation. Black Enterprise magazine placed Brown at No. 19 this year on its annual list of the “Top Fifty Colleges for African Americans,” marking a climb of more than 20 spots for the University since 2003.

Karen McLaurin, associate dean of the College and director of the Third World Center, said she was “delighted” by Brown’s progress.

Brenda Allen, associate provost and director of institutional diversity, echoed McLaurin’s sentiments, saying, “It’s great that we’re moving up in people’s perceptions, that people outside of Brown are understanding the time and effort we put into our programs.”

Each year, Black Enterprise compiles its list based on a range of factors, including the percentage of black students in the undergraduate population, black undergraduates’ five-year graduation rate and average survey scores from black students and faculty regarding academic and social life, according to the magazine’s Web site.

The percentage of black undergraduate students varied widely among highly ranked schools. No. 1 Florida A&M University reported having a black undergraduate population of 93.7 percent, while No. 11 Dickinson College reported only 3.8 percent. The majority of the 482 schools surveyed had black undergraduate populations between 5 and 10 percent black. Black students make up 6.4 percent of Brown’s undergraduate population, according to the magazine.

Among Ivy League institutions, Brown came in ahead of Dartmouth College (No. 47), Princeton University (No. 38), Cornell University (No. 26) and Yale University (No. 20), but placed behind the University of Pennsylvania (No. 9), Columbia University (No. 8) and Harvard University (No. 4). Other highly ranked schools in the Northeast included Wesleyan University (No. 10), Amherst College (No. 13) and Williams College (No. 24).

Allen and McLaurin attributed the improvement in rank to a variety of factors, including Brown’s Plan for Academic Enrichment, faculty responsiveness to students’ concerns and guidance and support from upperclassmen counselors. They also credited multiple lines of communication for undergraduates made available through the TWC as well as general happiness among all students, minorities included.

There has been no large jump in either black students’ graduation rate or level of enrollment, “so the increase in ratings must have come from subjective opinions on our programs,” Allen said. “Hopefully it is related to the resources that are geared towards diversity and awareness on campus.”

McLaurin stressed that satisfaction on the part of minority and other students cannot be attributed to just one factor.

“Each year, we have a different student body, and each class of students experiences the institution differently,” McLaurin said. “Each year Brown improves upon student satisfaction by understanding the needs of the incoming class.”

Allex Fambles ’10, a recent participant in Brown’s Third World Transition Program, said, “Brown is a great school for students of color because it has so many resources to (use) to reach out to the community. On many levels, however, like any other institution, it has a long way to go.”

The TWC and the University as a whole will continue to address minority issues by “looking retrospectively” and by “talking to students and knowing what feeds into their environment,” McLaurin said. “It is the entire environment, not the TWC, that makes a difference. So I’ll take a little credit, but I won’t take it all.”

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