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When Lisa Hollingsworth was searching for a college three years ago, she could have gone just about anywhere she wanted. The Los Angeles native had a 3.47 grade point average and 1050 SAT score. Hollingsworth thrived on academic achievement. Always in the top 15% of her class, taking advanced placement (AP) and honors classes, she’d taken SAT prep courses during her junior year of high school, along with college-prep classes at the University of California at Irvine. Therefore, when it was time to apply to college, she was more than prepared. Going to college was never in question, only where.
“First I wanted to exhaust all possibilities, so I applied to schools in California that were large, predominately white public universities in the University of California system-UC Berkeley, UCLA and UC Irvine,” explains the 20-year-old, whose mother is a regional sales manager for BLACK ENTERPRISE. “Then I applied to Spelman and Xavier. I had always wanted to go to Spelman since it had good research programs and a reputation for producing strong black women. I applied to Xavier based on a summer program experience I had there. I was accepted at all five schools, but [because of] my interest in medicine and Xavier’s reputation for placing the largest number of African American pre-med students going on to medical college, I decided to come here.”
Whether considering historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) or the Ivy League, private or public schools, small regional or large national research institutions, African American students cast their achievements, applications and aspirations across a broad academic landscape. Today’s potential entrant has more than 3,200 colleges in the United States from which to choose.
But how do black students and their parents make the right choice about what is often the most critical and costly step in a teenager’s future? What factors should be considered-grades, test scores, location, reputation of the institution and/or its ethnic composition? And, is it possible to predict whether that child will obtain a college degree in four years?
These were the questions that prompted Thomas A. LaVeist, Ph.D., associate professor of health policy and management and sociology at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and CEO of DayStar Research, to conduct research targeted specifically for African Americans. The result? The first ever listing of the BLACK ENTERPRISE/ DAYSTAR TOP 50 COLLEGES FOR AFRICAN AMERICANS.
For a school to be included on the list, it had to be an accredited four-year institution with a black student enrollment of at least 1.5% and/or be a large or well-known university that would be of interest to black students. The list and its ranking was developed by LaVeist, who surveyed 1,077 African American higher education professionals in the academic and social environments of colleges and universities around the country. (For more on research methodology, see sidebar, “How We Crunched The Numbers.”)
WHY DO THIS SURVEY?
Now, school rankings aren’t new; there are lists for the best colleges, c olleges with the best value and the best business, medical and law schools. But none