Episode 100: Historically Black College and University Freshman Enrollment on the Rise

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Well, it is the 100th episode of our podcast, which started out as NYCollegeChat and then rapidly became USACollegeChat when we realized that everything we had to say was useful to families all over the USA and not just in our home state of New York. In the television business, having 100 episodes is a big deal because it means that the show lasted long enough and with sufficient quality to be syndicated (actually, it’s really only 88 episodes, or what used to be four full 22-episode seasons–not that anyone can figure out how many episodes are in television seasons anymore or even when the seasons begin and end). In our case, 100 episodes is about two years at our weekly pace. It’s as though we are now Law & Order–rest in peace, song-and-dance man extraordinare Jerry Orbach. And while we won’t be reaping the financial benefits of all those residuals that Law & Order stars get, we are still happy about the work we have done on these first 100 episodes.

historically-black-college-and-university-freshman-enrollment-on-the-rise-on-usacollegechatToday also brings to mind one of my own favorite podcasts: Sodajerker On Songwriting, brought to you by the U.K. songwriting team of Simon Barber and Brian O’Connor, who do fascinating interviews with great songwriters. They are fond of saying that they have the #1 songwriting podcast in the world. Even though they have no credible evidence to back up that claim, they thought that, if they said it enough, it would be true. In the spirit of Simon and Brian, let me say that Marie and I are proud to have the #1 podcast on college issues and college access in the world. Evidence to come.

In light of our recent presidential election and the understandable response to it by many, many Americans, including many Americans of color, we thought we would use today’s episode to pay tribute to our nation’s historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). This is something we do relatively often, I think, and for good reason. It’s no secret to our regular listeners that I think Fisk University (an HBCU in Nashville, TN) is one of our national treasures, and I won’t bore you here with all of the reasons I think that. Just trust me that it is (or go back and listen to Episode 32, among others).

As recently as Episode 90, we spotlighted HBCUs. We said then that there are just over 100 HBCUs, and that they are public and private, large and small (even very small), faith-based and not, two-year and four-year colleges and universities; some also have graduate schools.

As our regular listeners know by now, HBCUs were founded to serve students who had been excluded from many other higher education institutions because of their race. The three earliest HBCUs were founded in Pennsylvania and Ohio before the Civil War, but many were founded in the South shortly after the Civil War. Those Southern HBCUs share a proud tradition of becoming the first colleges to provide higher education to the family members of freed slaves. Over the years, HBCUs have produced extraordinary leaders in every field of endeavor and thousands and thousands of well-educated American citizens.

1. Enrollment Is Up

Today, HBCUs enroll students who are not black–just as predominantly white institutions (PWIs) now enroll students who are not white. Some observers have said that it had become harder for HBCUs to recruit African-American students now that they are welcome at all kinds of colleges all across the U.S. Well, perhaps we are seeing a change in that trend.

According to a late September article by Timothy Pratt in The Hechinger Report (“Why more black students are enrolling in historically black colleges“), Spelman College, an excellent women’s HBCU in Atlanta, had a record number of applications for spots in this fall’s freshman class. Pratt explains in his article that many other HBCUs have also enjoyed enrollment increases:

Although many schools are still crunching the numbers, about a third of all HBCUs have seen spikes in freshmen enrollment this year, said Marybeth Gasman, higher education professor at the University of Pennsylvania and director of the Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions. Some are reversing declines that date to the economic downturn of 2008. (quoted from the article)

Some of the freshman enrollment statistics that Pratt provides in his article are rather amazing:

2. Why Is Enrollment Up?

So, why the increase? Pratt offers some explanations in his article:

Several observers, including Gasman, primarily attribute the surge in interest to racial tensions on and off college campuses. . . . But others say the schools themselves deserve at least some of the credit, for making changes in everything from recruiting practices to out-of-state tuition prices. . . .

Gasman said she is hearing more than ever before from parents who ‘don’t want [their children] to deal with what they’re seeing in other places.’ Black students, she said, ‘are feeling they need a place to go that has them in mind.’ Such calls and emails from parents usually increase after police shootings, she said. (quoted from the article)

And we have to wonder whether calls and emails from parents will increase in light of the results of our presidential election–an event that has clearly worried many black families. Perhaps the subtitle of Pratt’s article says it all:

In the era of Black Lives Matter, some students feel safer on majority-black campuses

But the results of our presidential election also understandably worried many Latino families. Interestingly, there was an article a year ago in The Atlantic that focused on an increase of Latino students at HBCUs. Here is one quotation from that article:

Deborah Santiago, chief operating officer and vice president for policy at Excelencia in Education, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group that promotes the interests of Latinos in higher education, says that HBCUs generally tend to be more student focused and have faculty who are culturally competent, making them attractive to emerging populations such as Latinos. (quoted from the article)

Gasman was also quoted in The Atlantic article, saying that Latino students often felt more comfortable in the family-like environment of many HBCUs and that low tuition rates at HBCUs were an added plus. Will the election results drive even more Latino students to HBCUs, where they, too, will perhaps feel safer and more valued? Or will the election results drive up enrollment numbers at Hispanic-serving institutions (HSIs), which we have also talked about at USACollegeChat in several episodes? That’s just a thought.

But let’s look further at both the favorable tuition rates and the caring environment at many HBCUs. Pratt wrote about both in his article:

Cost has long been seen as a plus for HBCUs. Penn’s Gasman estimates that HBCU tuition rates are 50 percent lower than those of their historically white counterparts; about a third of HBCUs have tuition and fees under $15,000. As more attention is drawn to rising tuition and student debt, these schools may become more appealing, said Melissa Wooten, sociology professor at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and author of ‘In the Face of Inequality: How Black Colleges Adapt.’

A Gallup poll released last year of black graduates of HBCUs and other colleges also sparked conversation, noted Robert Palmer, a professor in the department of educational leadership and policy studies at Howard University. The poll results showed that HBCU graduates were about twice as likely as graduates of other colleges to strongly agree with such statements as, ‘my professors ? cared about me as a person.’ (quoted from the article)

Now that we have given you all of these arguments, what might you do with them before college applications are due in just about six weeks? Well, we believe that you should think hard about putting an HBCU on your teenager’s list of colleges, especially if your family is black or Latino. It is not too late. HBCUs come in all shapes and sizes. Some are well known (like Fisk, Spelman, Morehouse, Howard, Tuskegee, Hampton, and Lincoln), and others are not–just like PWIs. Some are very selective, and others are not–just like PWIs. Is there an HBCU for you? There probably is. We hope you find it.

3. It’s Thanksgiving!

So, in case you hadn’t heard, next Thursday is Thanksgiving. We are going to take the day off. Instead of listening to our podcast, why don’t you just listen to what your kids are saying about school these days? We have been seriously troubled–even enraged–by some of the stories we have heard about how kids have reacted to the results of our presidential election. One of the saddest of those stories comes from Queens, right here in New York City, where a group of white seventh grade students in a class built a wall out of textbooks to separate their Latino classmates from them.

Now, Queens is the most diverse county in the U.S. Our kids here have classmates of every conceivable cultural, racial, and ethnic background from the time they are kindergartners–and now pre-kindergartners, given Mayor Bill de Blasio’s recent push for pre-K public education. So, how did the seventh graders in my story end up like that? It is something I am going to ponder this Thanksgiving, and I hope you will, too.

The Kindle ebook version of our book, How To Find the Right College, is on sale for $0.99 through 2016! Read it on your Kindle device or download the free Kindle app for any tablet or smartphone. The book is also available as a paperback workbook.

Ask your questions or share your feedback by…

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Episode 90: Assignment #10: It’s Never Too Late To Add One More College

Listen to the episode in the player, download it here, or subscribe on Google Play MusiciTunesStitcher, or TuneIn.

This is an episode we like to call “It’s Never Too Late To Add One More College.” Now, if your teenager and you have done your nine assignments this summer to expand and then investigate seriously the colleges on your teenager’s long summer list of college options, you are probably wondering what we mean by “adding one more.” But, first, let’s review the nine assignments you have already done?and it’s an impressive group:

We are truly impressed if you got all that done. Even if you didn’t do it for 50 colleges–one from each state, which was our original challenge–we are impressed. Even if you did it for just half that many colleges we are impressed. But, let’s say that we hope you did it for at least 20.

1. Your Assignment #10

Download the Assignment #10 Worksheet

And so, we come to the last assignment in building and investigating your teenager’s list. This assignment is not like the others. It is designed to give your teenager and you one last chance to consider a college you might have missed in your search, and it does that by looking at several categories of colleges you might have overlooked or you might have thought were not right for your teenager. At the end of this episode, you might be able to rule out each category we are suggesting; if so, your list is done. On the other hand, you might want to look further at one category or another and consider adding a few colleges to that long summer list of college options.

2. What About Faith-Based Colleges?

As we explained at some length in our book How To Find the Right College: A Workbook for Parents of High School Students (on sale at Amazon until we declare the summer officially over), “faith-based”–that is, religious–colleges and universities are a broader category than you might think. This category includes hundreds of small Bible colleges, which are indeed dedicated to religious life and the study of religion, but it also includes very large universities that offer all fields of study, though with an underlying religious or moral or service-to-others orientation.

Some faith-based institutions require more religious study than others. Some require students to take just a couple of courses in theology or perhaps philosophy instead, while others infuse much of their curriculum with their religious beliefs. Some require students to attend chapel services, but many do not.

In our experience, faith-based institutions are usually quite up front about what they are all about. They are not trying to trick your teenager into going there, because that wouldn’t be good for you or for them. Sometimes a college application will give you a clue by asking for your religion and the name and address of your church. Some ask for a recommendation from a minister. Many have a statement of their religious beliefs on their website or in their student handbook; you can read it and see whether your family supports it.

As a matter of fact, more U.S. colleges and universities than you might think have been founded by religious denominations–especially a lot of our earliest and most prestigious colleges, as you learned if you listened to our virtual nationwide tour of colleges (Episodes 27 through 54). Some of them retain their religious affiliation today, and many do not. Some faith-based institutions are Jewish, some are Catholic, and some are Protestant. One very interesting choice is Soka University of America (SUA), located in Orange County, California: “Proudly founded upon the Buddhist principles of peace, human rights and the sanctity of life, SUA offers a non-sectarian curriculum” and welcomes students of all beliefs (quoted from the website).

Understanding the world of some 200 Catholic colleges and universities in the U.S. is particularly complicated because they have been founded by various orders (including the Jesuits, Dominicans, Franciscans, and more) and by other groups within the Catholic community. And, in case you didn’t listen to our virtual nationwide tour of colleges, many respected Catholic institutions, including some of the best-known ones, actually attract many students who are not Catholic.

As I have said in previous episodes, I sent my daughter Polly to the Alvin Ailey/Fordham University joint dance B.F.A. program. Fordham is a Jesuit university, something I am always embarrassed to admit that I knew very little about before I sent Polly there to dance. For those of you who don’t know, the Jesuits–that is, the Society of Jesus–which was founded in Paris in the 1500s, traces its commitment to education to St. Ignatius of Loyola, who founded the first Jesuit college in Messina, Sicily, in 1548. Jesuit institutions today place a strong emphasis on intellectual rigor and a liberal arts foundation, social justice issues worldwide, and a life of service. It is my belief that students of all faiths, including my daughter who is not Catholic, are welcome and comfortable at Jesuit institutions. When I heard Father Joseph McShane, Fordham’s president, speak at orientation, I knew that we had, accidentally, made a great decision in sending Polly to Fordham. Father McShane said that Fordham students were taught to wrestle with important moral and ethical issues, to care for others, to despair over injustice, and to give back to their communities.

So, if your teenager is interested in social justice, if your teenager has done extensive community service projects in high school and has valued those experiences, or if you would like this sort of underpinning for your teenager’s collegiate education, I am going to suggest that you put a Jesuit college or university on your teenager’s long summer list of college options now so that you can think about it over the next few months. There are 28 to choose from (actually 189 worldwide), and they include small and large institutions all over the U.S. Some that you have likely heard of, in addition to Fordham in New York City, are Boston College, the College of the Holy Cross (in Worcester, Massachusetts), Georgetown University (in Washington, D.C.), Marquette University (in Milwaukee, Wisconsin), Saint Louis University (which has a great campus in Madrid, too), Santa Clara University (in California), and the University of San Francisco.

3. What About Historically Black Colleges and Universities?

Commonly referred to as HBCUs, historically black colleges and universities were established with the mission of educating African-American students solely or at least primarily. Today, just over 100 HBCUs can be found in many states and in both rural and urban settings. They are public and private, large and small (even very small), faith-based and not, two-year and four-year colleges; some have graduate schools.

HBCUs were founded to serve students who had been excluded from many other higher education institutions because of their race. The three earliest HBCUs were founded in Pennsylvania and Ohio before the Civil War, but many were founded in the South shortly after the Civil War. Those Southern HBCUs share a proud tradition of becoming the first collegiate homes of family members of freed slaves.

Some HBCUs have produced great black leaders–like Booker T. Washington, who attended Hampton University, and like Thurgood Marshall, who attended both Lincoln University and Howard University School of Law. Some have put great black leaders from many walks of life on their payrolls as professors and administrators–like Fisk University, where Charles Spurgeon Johnson, the intellectual architect of the Harlem Renaissance, served as Fisk’s first black president and where Harlem Renaissance writers and artists, like Arna Bontemps, James Weldon Johnson, and Aaron Douglas all worked. If you have listened to many episodes of USACollegeChat, you probably know that Fisk is my favorite HBCU, precisely because of its history (and if you don’t know about the Fisk Jubilee Singers, organized in 1871, you should).

Today, HBCUs enroll students who are not black–just as historically white colleges and universities now enroll students who are not white. Some observers say that it has become harder for HBCUs to recruit African-American students now that they are welcome at both selective and nonselective colleges across the U.S. That is probably true to some degree. Nonetheless, there is still a strong sense of community among the alumni/alumnae of HBCUs and a strong sense of tradition on HBCU campuses. For some African-American students especially, that could be a good fit for what they are looking for in a college, and a shared culture could go a long way toward helping them feel comfortable on a college campus, especially if it is far from home.

So, if your teenager is interested in living and studying in the shared culture that characterizes HBCUs or if you would like this sort of cultural and historical underpinning for your teenager’s collegiate education, I am going to suggest that you put an HBCU on your teenager’s long summer list of college options now so that you can think about it over the next few months. There are plenty to choose from, including some small and very accommodating ones that might be a perfect choice if your teenager has not gotten the high school grades or test scores that you might have wished for.

4. What About Hispanic-Serving Institutions?

There are over 250 colleges and universities that have been designated during the past 50 years as Hispanic-serving institutions (HSIs), meaning that they have a student enrollment that is at least 25 percent Hispanic. For example, The University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, a federally designated HSI, was one of the first minority-majority universities, with an approximately 45 percent Hispanic student body and an Anglo student population of just about 35 percent.

HSIs are located in states across the U.S. from California to Massachusetts and from Washington to Florida. Some HSIs are large public universities, some are large public community colleges, and some are small private liberal arts colleges. Many HSIs receive federal funds to support programs and scholarships that are designed to help low-income Hispanic students succeed in college.

Although HSIs do not have the same kind of historical traditions that HBCUs have–perhaps because they were not founded originally with a mission to serve Hispanic students–they do offer an environment where Hispanic students might more easily find classmates with a similar cultural background. First-generation Hispanic college students–that is, students whose parents did not attend college–might find it easier to fit into this supportive college environment, thus improving their chances of long-term success.

So, if your teenager is interested in living and studying with a substantial number of students from a similar cultural background or if you would like this sort of cultural underpinning for your teenager’s collegiate education, I am going to suggest that you put an HSI on your teenager’s long summer list of college options now so that you can think about it over the next few months. Remember that many HSIs are two-year colleges, so look over the options carefully.

5. What About Single-Sex Colleges and Universities?

Let’s start by remembering that colleges and universities that were started in America’s earliest days were all institutions for men. They were all single-sex institutions then.

Seven of the eight Ivy League institutions served only male students when they were founded in the 1600s and 1700s. Only my alma mater, Cornell University, the youngest of the Ivies, was founded as a co-educational university, which is, frankly, one reason I went there.

As time went on, many of the Ivies created a “sister” school for women: the University of Pennsylvania had its College for Women, Columbia had Barnard, Brown had Pembroke, and Harvard had Radcliffe. Of these, only Marie’s alma mater, Barnard, remains.

The tradition of single-sex colleges is particularly strong in the Northeast, perhaps because that is where so many of our country’s oldest higher education institutions are located. But there are well-known women’s colleges located in other regions of the U.S. as well–like Mills College and Scripps College in California, Stephens College in Missouri, Hollins University and Mary Baldwin College in Virginia, Saint Mary’s College (the sister school of the University of Notre Dame) in Indiana, and Agnes Scott College and Spelman College in Georgia. Spelman has the distinction of also being an excellent HBCU. Interestingly and for whatever reason (probably rooted in financial issues), some of these women’s colleges now allow men to enroll in their graduate programs or in their special programs for returning adult students, thus maintaining the traditional women’s college atmosphere for their undergraduate residential students. Today, there are just over 40 women’s colleges in the U.S.

If you have a daughter interested in a women’s college, check out the Women’s College Coalition website and the available downloadable guide Why a Women’s College? Or, you can just have her listen to Marie talk for the next few minutes.

Okay, what about the men? Interestingly, only a handful of men’s colleges remain. There is Morehouse College, which is an academically rigorous HBCU located in Georgia and which is the men’s counterpart to Spelman. Morehouse has a roster of famous alumni, ranging from Martin Luther King, Jr., to Samuel L. Jackson and Spike Lee–and that is quite a range. Hampden-Sydney College was founded in 1775 in Virginia and has a fascinating history (Patrick Henry and James Madison were among its first Trustees). And there is Wabash College, which is located in Indiana and is my father-on-law’s alma mater. Wabash is cited in the book Colleges That Change Lives as an institution that is successful in creating engaged students, who become leaders in their chosen fields. If I had a teenage boy at home who needed to focus on his studies so that he could become all that he could be, I would strongly consider Wabash.

While most single-sex institutions have opened their doors to the opposite sex over the years and especially in the past 50 years, those that remain carry on a tradition that their graduates wholeheartedly support. Some of their graduates–and indeed their families–believe that students can focus better on their studies when they are not being distracted by social interactions with the opposite sex in the classroom. Some of their graduates believe that students will develop a stronger sense of community and camaraderie with their classmates in single-sex institutions. Some of their graduates appreciate the histories and philosophies of these institutions–especially perhaps graduates of women’s colleges who feel that they are better supported as young women and are encouraged to set and pursue whatever education and career goals they can imagine for themselves.

So, if your teenager is interested in living and studying in a supportive environment typically with high expectations or if you would like this sort of social and intellectual underpinning for your teenager’s collegiate education, I am going to suggest that you put a single-sex institution on your teenager’s long summer list of college options now so that you can think about it over the next few months.

And let me make one point here: Even though I don’t prefer single-sex institutions now, I had two on my own list of colleges that I applied to. It was only after I had been accepted to them that I figured out they weren’t for me. But I was glad that I had the options and could consider them calmly over some months. And Marie, even though you chose to attend Barnard, you also applied to co-educational colleges. So, having both types of institutions on your teenager’s long summer list of college options might be just the thing to do.

So, have your teenager take the Assignment #10 worksheet and take one last look at whether to add another college to his or her long summer list of college options. And, since Monday is Labor Day, we are going to take a week off while you all enjoy your last three-day weekend of the summer season. Fortunately, this next week will give you and your teenager some time to let that long summer list of college options sink in–right before we start helping you narrow it down and begin the serious application process. We will see you back with us on September 15!

Download the Assignment #10 Worksheet

The Kindle ebook version of our book, How To Find the Right College, is on sale for $1.99 all summer long! Read it on your Kindle device or download the free Kindle app for any tablet or smartphone. The book is also available as a paperback workbook.

Ask your questions or share your feedback by…

  • Leaving a comment below on the show notes for this episode
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Episode 32: Colleges in the Southeast Region—Part IV

In our last episode, we continued our virtual tour of colleges by focusing in on the six states in the Northern Southeast region: Arkansas, Tennessee, North Carolina, Kentucky, West Virginia, and Virginia. We looked at public universities—both the flagship state public universities and other public universities in those states—in last week’s episode. In this episode, we will continue our tour of the Northern Southeast states by switching our focus to private colleges and universities. Virtual Tour of Colleges in the Southeast Region Part IV on NYCollegeChat podcastAgain, we want to make it clear that no college has asked us or paid us anything to name it. These are entirely our own choices.

Some of the colleges we will spotlight in this episode will require that your child have very good high school grades and college admission test scores to get in. Others will be a bit easier to get into, especially if a college is looking for out-of-state students to enhance its student body’s geographic diversity.

One note: Because enrollment figures are not necessarily comparable as reported by various colleges, you should use the figures we provide here just as an approximation of the actual campus enrollment, but one that is good enough to help you understand whether the student body is the right size for your child—roughly, small, medium, or really huge.

1. Private Universities

The Northern Southeast states have a wide array of private higher education institutions—from small Bible colleges to small liberal arts colleges to larger universities. Let’s start with two private universities that most people have long considered two of the best in the South and that also enjoy a great national reputation: Duke University and Vanderbilt University. Your child would need very good high school grades and college admission test scores to be admitted to either one.

Duke is located in Durham, North Carolina—not far from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University at Raleigh, both of which we talked about in our last episode on public universities. This part of North Carolina is known as the Research Triangle, taking its name from Research Triangle Park, home to high-tech companies for more than 50 years, and now embracing the one private and two public research universities that anchor it. Duke has a total enrollment of approximately 15,000 students, about 6,500 of whom are undergraduates. After the states of North Carolina and California, New York sends more students to Duke than any other state. Duke has an impressive 95 percent four-year graduation rate, which is especially impressive, given Duke’s high academic standards. The University boasts 10 undergraduate and graduate schools and colleges, with 80 percent of undergraduates enrolling in the Trinity College of Arts & Sciences, with its 49 majors, and with the remaining undergraduates enrolling in the Pratt School of Engineering. And, by the way, Duke has a national championship men’s basketball team.

Turning to Nashville, a great Southern city known, of course, for its country music scene, let’s look at Vanderbilt. Vanderbilt enrolls approximately 13,000 students, about 7,000 of whom are undergraduates. Undergraduates study in four of Vanderbilt’s 10 schools and colleges—namely, the College of Arts and Science (with the largest enrollment, by far), the Blair School of Music, the School of Engineering, and the well-known Peabody College of Education and Human Development. In addition to graduate and professional schools of medicine, nursing, management, and law, Vanderbilt also has a graduate Divinity School. After Tennessee, Illinois and then New York and Texas send the most students to Vanderbilt. An enviable 88 percent of its students graduate in four years—another good showing, like Duke’s. Railroad and shipping tycoon Cornelius Vanderbilt gave $1 million to create the University in 1873, a university that would “contribute to strengthening the ties that should exist between all sections of our common country.” He got his wish for a national university.

Let’s talk about one more private university—Wake Forest University, located on a beautiful campus in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. It has one undergraduate college of liberal arts and sciences, plus graduate and professional schools in liberal arts, divinity, business, law, and medicine. “Wake Forest College stands as the cornerstone of Wake Forest University. It is a distinctive academic institution that values and maintains the liberal arts tradition within the context of an internationally recognized research university,” as explained on its website. This is an interesting model, designed to give students the best of both worlds: a smaller, more personalized liberal arts undergraduate education, set in the broader context of graduate and professional studies. Founded in 1834, Wake Forest now enrolls about 4,800 undergraduate students, drawn internationally and studying in about 40 majors. Its graduate and professional schools enroll another approximately 2,800 students. Of special importance to prospective applicants is the fact that Wake Forest has been a “test-optional” college since 2008. As the website states: “If you think your scores are an accurate representation of your ability, feel free to submit them. If you feel they are not, don’t. You won’t be penalized.” Wake Forest would say that its student body diversity has increased and that its academic standards have not declined at all as a result of its position on college admission testing.

2. Single-Sex Colleges and Universities

Let’s highlight one of only a handful of men’s colleges remaining in the U.S.: Hampden-Sydney College, a liberal arts college located in Hampden-Sydney, Virginia, which is in southern Virginia. It enrolls about 1,100 men from 30 states and 13 foreign countries, with about 70 percent of those students hailing from Virginia. It offers its students over 25 liberal arts majors and a required Rhetoric Program, which focuses on making students into highly competent writers. Its history is quite impressive:

In continuous operation since November 10, 1775 (Patrick Henry and James Madison were among its first Trustees), Hampden-Sydney is the tenth oldest institution of higher learning in the United States, holds the oldest (1783) private charter in the South, and is the oldest of the country’s few remaining colleges for men. (quoted from the website)

Virginia is also home to two well-known women’s colleges: Hollins University (in Roanoke) and Mary Baldwin College (in Staunton). Hollins enrolls just about 550 undergraduate women in 27 liberal arts majors and a couple hundred men and women graduate students. Mary Baldwin serves about 750 residential undergraduate women and almost 600 undergraduate men and women adult students in over 50 majors and minors; it also enrolls about 400 men and women graduate students. Founded in 1842, Mary Baldwin is named for one member of its first class of 57 students, who later became the head of the institution. (A third well-known women’s college in Virginia, Sweet Briar College, is closing in 2015.)

3. Colleges That Change Lives: Six Choices

As we said in Episode 28, Colleges That Change Lives is a nonprofit organization that was founded after the publication of the book Colleges That Change Lives, by Loren Pope, a retired New York Times education editor. There are now 44 colleges and universities profiled in the book and on the organization’s website. Those that are included are not necessarily famous institutions. Most are smaller colleges and universities that have proved to be successful at developing students both personally and academically so that they can succeed in life after their undergraduate college years.

Six of the 44 institutions profiled are located in the Northern Southeast states. You should read about them in the book or on the website, because you will learn much more about them than I can tell you in this episode. Here are the six:

Let’s look at Centre College for a minute. It is a liberal arts college, located in the geographic center of Kentucky in Danville—just about 35 miles south of Lexington, home to the University of Kentucky, which we discussed in our last episode. Centre College was founded in 1819 by Presbyterian leaders, when British spelling (centre rather than center) was still common in the U.S. It maintains its Presbyterian affiliation today. Here is the Centre Commitment:

All students are guaranteed 1) study abroad, 2) an internship or research opportunity, and 3) graduation in four years, or Centre will provide up to a year of additional study tuition-free (as long as academic and social expectations have been met). (quoted from the website)

Centre enrolls almost 1,500 undergraduate students, drawn mostly nationally and about half from Kentucky itself. Its students study in 27 liberal arts majors in courses taught entirely by professors—that is, no teaching assistants. Engineering, education, and nursing degrees can be obtained through partnerships with cooperating universities. About 85 percent of students study abroad at least once, and about 25 percent study abroad at least twice.

Because these Colleges That Change Lives institutions are relatively small and thus are not particularly well known outside of their geographic region, it is my feeling that out-of-state students with a decent high school record might have a good chance of being accepted.

4. Historically Black Colleges and Universities

In an earlier episode in Series 1 of NYCollegeChat, we talked about historically black colleges and universities (commonly referred to as HBCUs), which were established with the mission of educating African-American students solely or primarily—that is, a mission of serving students who had been excluded from many other higher education institutions because of their race. You might recall that there are just over 100 HBCUs—public and private, rural and urban, large and small (even very small), two-year and four-year and graduate schools. Many were founded in the South shortly after the Civil War, and these HBCUs share a proud history of becoming the first collegiate homes for family members of freed slaves.

As we explained in our earlier episode, HBCUs today enroll students who are not black. Some people say that it has become harder for HBCUs to recruit African-American students, who are now welcome at both selective and nonselective colleges across the U.S. Nonetheless, there is still a strong sense of community among the alumni/alumnae of HBCUs and a strong sense of tradition and shared culture on HBCU campuses.

Just as we saw with our previous episodes on the Southern Southeast states, a large number of HBCUs are located in the six Northern Southeast states—31 public and private four-year HBCUs, to be exact. We have already talked about a number of the public HBCUs in our previous episode on public colleges in the Northern Southeast states, but let’s look at two very famous private HBCUs in this region, each of which has a long and impressive history.

Let’s start with Hampton University and its lovely campus in Hampton, Virginia. The history of Hampton University is so intriguing that I cannot do it justice here. Let me start simply with a long, slightly edited excerpt from its website:

The year was 1861. The American Civil War had shortly begun and the Union Army held control of Fort Monroe in Hampton, Virginia at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. In May of that year, Union Major General Benjamin Butler decreed that any escaping slaves reaching Union lines would be considered “contraband of war” and would not be returned to bondage. This resulted in waves of enslaved people rushing to the fort in search of freedom. A camp to house the newly freed slaves was built several miles outside the protective walls of Fort Monroe. It was named ‘The Grand Contraband Camp’ and functioned as the United States’ first self-contained African American community… (Quoted from the Hampton University website. Read Hampton’s full history here.)

Regular listeners will recall that we talked about Tuskegee Institute, now Tuskegee University, in an earlier episode.

Today, Hampton enrolls about 3,500 undergraduates and almost 1,000 graduate students. About 90 percent are black, and about 65 percent are women (that might be good news for young men looking for a college to attend). They come from across the U.S. and across the world, and only about 25 percent are Virginia residents. Hampton offers 48 bachelor’s degree programs in the School of Liberal Arts, School of Science, School of Business, School of Education and Human Development, School of Engineering and Technology, School of Nursing, and the Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications. Tuition is about $20,000 per year—making it about half as expensive as many other private colleges.

Moving back west to Tennessee, let’s look at Fisk University in Nashville. Another HBCU with an incredible history, this is the story of Fisk:

In 1865…three men — John Ogden, the Reverend Erastus Milo Cravath, and the Reverend Edward P. Smith — established the Fisk School in Nashville. The school was named in honor of General Clinton B. Fisk of the Tennessee Freedmen’s Bureau, who provided the new institution with facilities in former Union Army barracks near the present site of Nashville’s Union Station. In these facilities, Fisk convened its first classes on January 9, 1866. The first students ranged in age from seven to seventy, but shared common experiences of slavery and poverty — and an extraordinary thirst for learning. (Quoted from the Fisk University website. Read Fisk’s full history here.)

As interesting as this early history is, my favorite time in Fisk’s story is right after the Harlem Renaissance in roughly the 1930s and 1940s. At that time, Charles Spurgeon Johnson, the brilliant sociologist who was the intellectual architect of the Harlem Renaissance, left New York City to take a teaching position at Fisk. He later became its first black president in 1946. He eventually brought with him some of the artists and writers he had nurtured in New York City during the Harlem Renaissance—including inimitable visual artist Aaron Douglas and masterful writers James Weldon Johnson and Arna Bontemps.

Today, Fisk serves about 800 students in its School of Humanities and Social Sciences, its School of Natural Sciences, Mathematics and Business, and its School of Graduate Studies. About 25 percent of Fisk students are home grown in Tennessee; the rest come from 22 other states and a handful of foreign countries. Like Hampton, tuition at Fisk is about $20,000 per year—making it a relative bargain among private colleges.

If you are interested in an HBCU for your child, the Northern Southeast region—like the Southern Southeast region—is a particularly fertile spot to find one. There are many more in this region that you can read about on your own. The White House Initiative on HBCUs has a complete list.

Listen to the podcast to find out about…

  • Hampton University’s great summer programs for high school students
  • Why single-sex colleges still make sense
  • Appealing smaller undergraduate colleges within larger research universities

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Episode 31: Colleges in the Southeast Region—Part III

Today we are continuing our virtual tour of colleges across the U.S. to try to stretch your thinking about colleges that might be attractive to your child. We made our first stop in the Great Lakes region and our second stop in what we have nicknamed the “Southern Southeast” region. In this episode, we will head just slightly north.

As we have said from the beginning of our tour, we are looking at four-year colleges only, reasoning that students headed to a public two-year college are highly likely to go to one in their home state and are not, therefore, looking to leave their own geographic region—at least not right away. We also want to repeat that no college has asked us to spotlight it in our episodes and that no college has paid us anything to choose it. For better or worse, these are entirely our own choices.

It is certainly true that some of the colleges we are spotlighting will require that your child have very good high school grades and college admission test scores to get in. On the other hand, others will be a bit easier, especially if a college is looking for out-of-state students to enhance its student body’s geographic diversity. But, because each student’s profile of grades and test scores and activities is his or her own unique package, it will be up to you to look at your child’s high school record to see which colleges might be most appropriate.

Two general notes: First, when we talk about the colleges and universities in this episode, we are going to be talking about the main campus—that is, the one that most people associate with that institution—in those cases where an institution has more than one campus. Second, because enrollment figures are not necessarily comparable as reported by various colleges, you should use the figures we provide here just as an approximation of the actual campus enrollment, but one that is good enough to help you understand whether the student body is the right size for your child—roughly, small, medium, or really huge.

1. The Southeast Region

As we said in our last episode, the Bureau of Economic Analysis (an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce) has divided the U.S. into eight regions, with each region’s covering four to 12 states. In our recent episodes, we have been looking at the Bureau’s Southeast region, which has 12 states. Because we thought that would be a lot of states to investigate all at once, we divided the Bureau’s Southeast region into what we called the Southern Southeast region and the Northern Southeast region. In our last episode, we finished up our tour of the Southern Southeast region. Today we will move on to the six states of the Northern Southeast region: Arkansas, Tennessee, North Carolina, Kentucky, West Virginia, and Virginia.

If you are one of our listeners from the West Coast or the Southwest, for example, I am going to guess that you have not considered almost any colleges in the Northern Southeast region for your child, with a rare exception. Perhaps you will reconsider after today’s episode about public colleges in these states or next week’s episode about private colleges in these states.

2. Flagship Public State Universities

Let’s start with the flagship public state universities in these six states. Each state has one, though some are better known nationally than others. They are all good schools, and most people would agree that two of them would be in anyone’s list of outstanding public universities. While these universities have smaller branch campuses in other locations in their states, it is the main location—that is, the flagship of each state’s public system—that we will talk about here because that is the campus that is most respected and most widely recognized, both in the state and outside the state.

Some of these flagship campuses attract students from far away states more often than others; at least two of the ones we are spotlighting today can be thought of really as national universities, annually drawing students from across the U.S. But for the others, an application from a student in New York is not so commonplace; in those cases, a New York student with decent, but not spectacular, high school grades and college admission test scores might have a real chance of being accepted. As we have said before, colleges like to have geographic diversity in the student body.

Let us repeat what we have said in other episodes about flagship campuses: They are the place to be, if you graduated from high school in that state. Why? Because they are relatively inexpensive, academically respectable, well regarded across the state and across the country, super-competitive in sports arenas, chocked full of student clubs and activities, within driving distance of home, and a social hub for high school classmates. So, these flagship campuses draw a large portion of the best high school students in the state, which understandably drives up the average high school GPA of entering freshmen. At one of these universities, where 80 percent of the students are residents of the state, the average high school GPA of entering freshmen was a 3.79.

So, what are these flagship campuses in the Northern Southeast region? They are the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville; University of Tennessee, Knoxville; University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; University of Kentucky in Lexington; West Virginia University in Morgantown; and University of Virginia in Charlottesville. These universities are located in different kinds of settings—from picturesque small college towns to substantial cities—but they have some things in common.

One thing they have in common is that they have a lot of students. The typical number of undergraduates at these campuses is around 21,000, with the University of Virginia (commonly known as UVA) on the low end at about 15,000. The total undergraduate, graduate, and professional student enrollment averages about 28,000 students, with UVA again at the low end with about 21,000. While these student bodies are smaller than the flagship campuses we looked at in the Great Lakes states, these campuses are still going to feel quite large to incoming freshmen.

Each campus, of course, has its own history, and I personally love to read about college histories. I could tell you stories about every college we mention. But I would be remiss, on this occasion, if I didn’t offer you at least a brief recounting of the founding of UVA (as quoted from the website):

Thomas Jefferson founded the University of Virginia in 1819. He wished the publicly supported school to have a national character and stature. Jefferson envisioned a new kind of university, one dedicated to educating leaders in practical affairs and public service rather than for professions in the classroom and pulpit exclusively. It was the first nonsectarian university in the United States and the first to use the elective course system.

Jefferson considered the founding of the University to be one of his greatest achievements. Undertaking the project toward the end of his life—after a long, illustrious career that included serving as a colonial revolutionary, political leader, writer, architect, inventor, and horticulturalist—he was closely involved in the University’s design. He planned the curriculum, recruited the first faculty, and designed the Academical Village, a terraced green space surrounded by residential and academic buildings, gardens, and the majestic center-point—the Rotunda. The most recognizable symbol of the University, the Rotunda stands at the north end of the Lawn and is half the height and width of the Pantheon in Rome, which was the primary inspiration for the building. The Lawn and the Rotunda have served as models for similar designs of “centralized green areas” at universities across the United States.

If you have not seen Thomas Jefferson’s campus in Charlottesville, it is truly lovely—like a picture postcard of a university, with its red brick buildings and white columns. But I don’t want to overemphasize UVA, because I feel that it is one of the harder flagship universities to get into from out of state—both because of its smaller size and its high standards. Ditto for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (commonly known as UNC).

These flagship universities have from 8 to 16 undergraduate, graduate, and professional schools and colleges—from liberal arts and sciences to every kind of career-related field you can imagine. Here are some of the more distinctive ones: UVA has the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy; UNC has the Gillings School of Global Public Health; The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, has the College of Communication and Information; University of Kentucky has the College of Design; West Virginia University has the College of Physical Activity and Sport Sciences; and the University of Arkansas has the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences, which is named, obviously, for J. William Fulbright, former university president and longtime U.S. senator from Arkansas, who introduced the legislation that set up the well-known Fulbright scholarships for U.S. and foreign scholars.

When we attended the National Association for College Admission Counseling’s college fair in New York City last month, we had a nice chat with Christie Banks, an Admissions Counselor at the University of Tennessee, who did a quick audio pitch for our listeners. So, take it away, Christie. (Be sure to listen to it in our recorded episode. Christie mentions the VIP page for prospective students, which can be accessed here.)

These flagship universities offer from about 75 to 175 undergraduate majors across their numerous undergraduate colleges and schools—truly something for everyone.

Like other large universities, each one has many student clubs and organizations and many men’s and women’s varsity sports teams (plus club sports and intramurals). Sports are a bigger part of college life on some of these campuses than others—for example, with basketball teams at Kentucky and UVA ranking in everyone’s top 10 in 2015 (and with UNC not far behind).

Speaking of Kentucky, when we attended the National Association for College Admission Counseling’s college fair in New York City last month, we spoke with Cara Franke, a University of Kentucky recruiter for parts of Kentucky plus the New England and Mid-Atlantic states. Cara, a Lexington native, did the following audio pitch for her alma mater for NYCollegeChat. (Be sure to listen to it in our recorded episode. Cara mentions the online virtual tour of the University of Kentucky campus, which is available here.)

Each of these six flagship universities is well enough known to attract students from many states and foreign countries, but most of the undergraduate students attending these campuses are home grown—ranging from about half of the students at West Virginia to about 85 percent of the students at Tennessee. For some of the universities, that could mean that a solid application from outside of the state would be viewed with interest, and your child could likely get a great education at a cost lower than at a private school in your home state—that is, before any financial aid package is figured in. More important, as we said in an earlier episode, these six flagship universities are better academically and more widely recognized than many private colleges in the U.S., and there is no prestige in attending a private college that is not as good as a great public university.

3. Other Public State Universities

In these six Northern Southeast states, there are also other public universities—some are branches of the flagship campus, but others are universities in their own right. Interestingly, each state has at least one public university designated as one of our nation’s HBCUs (historically black colleges and universities).

Virginia has a number of public universities that are well known outside the state, starting with the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg in southwest Virginia (commonly known today as Virginia Tech, though it was known as V.P.I. some years ago before the legislature changed its name), which offers about 90 undergraduate majors in seven undergraduate colleges to about 24,000 undergraduates, about 70 percent of whom are Virginia residents. With a large total enrollment of about 31,000 students, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Maryland are four of the top five home states for out-of-state students.

Other large and well-known public universities in Virginia include George Mason University, Old Dominion University, and Virginia Commonwealth University—with total enrollments from about 24,000 to 32,000 students.

But perhaps the most respected public university in Virginia is actually one that doesn’t sound public, and that is the College of William & Mary, located in Williamsburg. The second oldest college in the U.S., William & Mary was chartered by King William III and Queen Mary II in 1693 in the Virginia Colony. The college cut its ties with England in 1775 and became state supported in 1903 (and coeducational in 1918). Unlike most public universities, William & Mary is small—just about 6,000 undergraduates and 2,000 graduate students. Even so, its has over 400 student organizations. Students at William & Mary are smart and accomplished, and it is quite selective in admitting students. But, if you have the high school record to go, it is a fantastic education at a public price for Virginia students—though out-of-state students are going to be paying private college tuition rates to attend (about $35,000 a year currently). William & Mary is proud of its “firsts,” including the first Greek-letter society (Phi Beta Kappa, founded in 1776), the first student honor code, the first college to become a university, and the first law school in America.

Going from smallest to biggest, let’s take a quick look in North Carolina at North Carolina State University in Raleigh—not too far from UNC at Chapel Hill. NC State is actually the largest higher education institution in the state, serving a total of about 34,000 undergraduate, graduate, and professional students in 12 colleges, including the College of Textiles and the College of Natural Resources among all the usual choices. NC State offers its 24,000 undergraduate students over 100 majors and 700 student organizations to choose from. Engineering was the top declared major of incoming freshmen last year. The average high school GPA of these incoming freshmen was a 3.66, with SAT scores in math and reading of 1248—good grades and scores for such a large university. Just as with Virginia Tech, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Maryland are four of the top five home states for out-of-state students.

And before leaving North Carolina, let us say a word about the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, one of 17 campuses of the University of North Carolina and located in Winston-Salem. The UNC School of the Arts is a well known and respected institution among those in the arts world. It offers high school diplomas as well as undergraduate and graduate degrees. Undergraduate students can earn degrees in dance, design and production (includes visual arts), drama, filmmaking, and music. As with all fine arts schools, there is a rigorous interview and/or audition process for admitting its approximately 850 undergraduates—about half in-state and half out-of-state students.

Before leaving public universities in this region, let’s take a quick look at just some of the public HBCUs in these states. (For more about HBCUs, see our show notes from our last episode, Episode 30.) They are smaller—sometimes quite a bit smaller—than most of the other public universities in their own states and typically draw more students from their home states, but they do offer a cultural experience for students and a campus history that is different from what other public universities offer. West Virginia State University, located in Institute, West Virginia, a suburb of the capital of Charleston, offers about 20 majors to its 2,800 undergraduate students (the slight majority of whom are now white). Kentucky State University, located in the state capital of Frankfort, offers 24 bachelor’s degree majors to its 1,800 undergraduate students (about three-quarters of whom are black).

The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff offers more than 30 majors across its four academic schools—including the School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences—to about 2,300 undergraduate students; about 90 percent of UAPB students are black, and about 65 percent are Arkansas residents. Both Virginia State University, located about 20 minutes south of the capital of Richmond in the village of Ettrick, and Norfolk State University, located in Norfolk, offer majors across five or six undergraduate schools and colleges to about 4,500 undergraduates (about 80 percent of their students are black, and about 80 percent are Virginia residents).

Tennessee State University, located on two campuses in Nashville, offers 45 bachelor’s degree programs across seven undergraduate colleges and schools—including the College of Public Service and Urban Affairs—to its 7,100 undergraduate students (it has another 2,000 graduate students); it merged with the University of Tennessee at Nashville in 1979 to form a new institution serving students of all races, though its current student body is about 70 percent black.

North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University, located in Greensboro, offers 55 degrees through seven schools and colleges to about 9,000 undergraduate students (there are another 1,500 graduate students). NC A&T’s students are about 75 percent black, and about 80 percent are North Carolina residents. Winston-Salem State University, Fayetteville State University, and North Carolina Central University in Durham all serve about 6,000 undergraduates. Their student bodies range from about 65 to 80 percent black, and about 90 percent of their students are North Carolina residents. Though smaller than many other public universities in North Carolina, they have some unique programs. For example, Winston-Salem has a bachelor’s degree in Motorsports Management, and NC Central offers bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Jazz Studies and is the only HBCU in the nation with a School of Library and Information Sciences.

As we have said before, all of these public universities (and there are even more in these states than those we mentioned here) would cost an out-of-state student more than a public university in his or her own state, but less than most private colleges. So, consider looking at public universities beyond just the flagship university, for the special programs or the appealing locations or the sense of history and tradition that they offer.

Listen to the podcast to find out about…

The University of Kentucky firsthand
The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, firsthand
A wealth of public HBCUs
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Outside of New York State

College of William & Mary (Virginia)
Fayetteville State University (North Carolina)
George Mason University (Virginia)
Hampton University (Virginia)
Kentucky State University
National Association for College Admission Counseling
Norfolk State University (Virginia)
North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University
North Carolina Central University, including the School of Library and Information Sciences
North Carolina State University, including the College of Natural Resources and the College of Textiles
Old Dominion University (Virginia)
Tennessee State University, including the College of Public Service and Urban Affairs
University of Arkansas, including the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences
University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, including the School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences
University of Kentucky, including the College of Design
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, including the Gillings School of Global Public Health
University of North Carolina School of the Arts
University of Tennessee, Knoxville, including the College of Communication and Information
University of Virginia, including the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy
Virginia Commonwealth University
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Virginia State University
West Virginia State University
West Virginia University, including the College of Physical Activity and Sport Sciences
Winston-Salem State University (North Carolina)
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Today we are continuing our virtual tour of colleges across the U.S. to try to stretch your thinking about colleges that might be attractive to your child. We made our first stop in the Great Lakes region and our second stop in what we have nicknamed the “Southern Southeast” region. In this episode, we will head just slightly north.

NYCollegeChat virtual audio tour of Colleges in the Southeast Region Part III

As we have said from the beginning of our tour, we are looking at four-year colleges only, reasoning that students headed to a public two-year college are highly likely to go to one in their home state and are not, therefore, looking to leave their own geographic region—at least not right away. We also want to repeat that no college has asked us to spotlight it in our episodes and that no college has paid us anything to choose it. For better or worse, these are entirely our own choices.

It is certainly true that some of the colleges we are spotlighting will require that your child have very good high school grades and college admission test scores to get in. On the other hand, others will be a bit easier, especially if a college is looking for out-of-state students to enhance its student body’s geographic diversity. But, because each student’s profile of grades and test scores and activities is his or her own unique package, it will be up to you to look at your child’s high school record to see which colleges might be most appropriate.

Two general notes: First, when we talk about the colleges and universities in this episode, we are going to be talking about the main campus—that is, the one that most people associate with that institution—in those cases where an institution has more than one campus. Second, because enrollment figures are not necessarily comparable as reported by various colleges, you should use the figures we provide here just as an approximation of the actual campus enrollment, but one that is good enough to help you understand whether the student body is the right size for your child—roughly, small, medium, or really huge.

1. The Southeast Region

As we said in our last episode, the Bureau of Economic Analysis (an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce) has divided the U.S. into eight regions, with each region’s covering four to 12 states. In our recent episodes, we have been looking at the Bureau’s Southeast region, which has 12 states. Because we thought that would be a lot of states to investigate all at once, we divided the Bureau’s Southeast region into what we called the Southern Southeast region and the Northern Southeast region. In our last episode, we finished up our tour of the Southern Southeast region. Today we will move on to the six states of the Northern Southeast region: Arkansas, Tennessee, North Carolina, Kentucky, West Virginia, and Virginia.

If you are one of our listeners from the West Coast or the Southwest, for example, I am going to guess that you have not considered almost any colleges in the Northern Southeast region for your child, with a rare exception. Perhaps you will reconsider after today’s episode about public colleges in these states or next week’s episode about private colleges in these states.

2. Flagship Public State Universities

Let’s start with the flagship public state universities in these six states. Each state has one, though some are better known nationally than others. They are all good schools, and most people would agree that two of them would be in anyone’s list of outstanding public universities. While these universities have smaller branch campuses in other locations in their states, it is the main location—that is, the flagship of each state’s public system—that we will talk about here because that is the campus that is most respected and most widely recognized, both in the state and outside the state.

Some of these flagship campuses attract students from far away states more often than others; at least two of the ones we are spotlighting today can be thought of really as national universities, annually drawing students from across the U.S. But for the others, an application from a student in New York is not so commonplace; in those cases, a New York student with decent, but not spectacular, high school grades and college admission test scores might have a real chance of being accepted. As we have said before, colleges like to have geographic diversity in the student body.

Let us repeat what we have said in other episodes about flagship campuses: They are the place to be, if you graduated from high school in that state. Why? Because they are relatively inexpensive, academically respectable, well regarded across the state and across the country, super-competitive in sports arenas, chocked full of student clubs and activities, within driving distance of home, and a social hub for high school classmates. So, these flagship campuses draw a large portion of the best high school students in the state, which understandably drives up the average high school GPA of entering freshmen. At one of these universities, where 80 percent of the students are residents of the state, the average high school GPA of entering freshmen was a 3.79.

So, what are these flagship campuses in the Northern Southeast region? They are the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville; University of Tennessee, Knoxville; University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; University of Kentucky in Lexington; West Virginia University in Morgantown; and University of Virginia in Charlottesville. These universities are located in different kinds of settings—from picturesque small college towns to substantial cities—but they have some things in common.

One thing they have in common is that they have a lot of students. The typical number of undergraduates at these campuses is around 21,000, with the University of Virginia (commonly known as UVA) on the low end at about 15,000. The total undergraduate, graduate, and professional student enrollment averages about 28,000 students, with UVA again at the low end with about 21,000. While these student bodies are smaller than the flagship campuses we looked at in the Great Lakes states, these campuses are still going to feel quite large to incoming freshmen.

Each campus, of course, has its own history, and I personally love to read about college histories. I could tell you stories about every college we mention. But I would be remiss, on this occasion, if I didn’t offer you at least a brief recounting of the founding of UVA (as quoted from the website):

Thomas Jefferson founded the University of Virginia in 1819. He wished the publicly supported school to have a national character and stature. Jefferson envisioned a new kind of university, one dedicated to educating leaders in practical affairs and public service rather than for professions in the classroom and pulpit exclusively. It was the first nonsectarian university in the United States and the first to use the elective course system.

Jefferson considered the founding of the University to be one of his greatest achievements. Undertaking the project toward the end of his life—after a long, illustrious career that included serving as a colonial revolutionary, political leader, writer, architect, inventor, and horticulturalist—he was closely involved in the University’s design. He planned the curriculum, recruited the first faculty, and designed the Academical Village, a terraced green space surrounded by residential and academic buildings, gardens, and the majestic center-point—the Rotunda. The most recognizable symbol of the University, the Rotunda stands at the north end of the Lawn and is half the height and width of the Pantheon in Rome, which was the primary inspiration for the building. The Lawn and the Rotunda have served as models for similar designs of “centralized green areas” at universities across the United States.

If you have not seen Thomas Jefferson’s campus in Charlottesville, it is truly lovely—like a picture postcard of a university, with its red brick buildings and white columns. But I don’t want to overemphasize UVA, because I feel that it is one of the harder flagship universities to get into from out of state—both because of its smaller size and its high standards. Ditto for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (commonly known as UNC).

These flagship universities have from 8 to 16 undergraduate, graduate, and professional schools and colleges—from liberal arts and sciences to every kind of career-related field you can imagine. Here are some of the more distinctive ones: UVA has the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy; UNC has the Gillings School of Global Public Health; The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, has the College of Communication and InformationUniversity of Kentucky has the College of Design; West Virginia University has the College of Physical Activity and Sport Sciences; and the University of Arkansas has the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences, which is named, obviously, for J. William Fulbright, former university president and longtime U.S. senator from Arkansas, who introduced the legislation that set up the well-known Fulbright scholarships for U.S. and foreign scholars.

When we attended the National Association for College Admission Counseling’s college fair in New York City last month, we had a nice chat with Christie Banks, an Admissions Counselor at the University of Tennessee, who did a quick audio pitch for our listeners. So, take it away, Christie. (Be sure to listen to it in our recorded episode. Christie mentions the VIP page for prospective students, which can be accessed here.)

These flagship universities offer from about 75 to 175 undergraduate majors across their numerous undergraduate colleges and schools—truly something for everyone.

Like other large universities, each one has many student clubs and organizations and many men’s and women’s varsity sports teams (plus club sports and intramurals). Sports are a bigger part of college life on some of these campuses than others—for example, with basketball teams at Kentucky and UVA ranking in everyone’s top 10 in 2015 (and with UNC not far behind).

Speaking of Kentucky, when we attended the National Association for College Admission Counseling’s college fair in New York City last month, we spoke with Cara Franke, a University of Kentucky recruiter for parts of Kentucky plus the New England and Mid-Atlantic states.   Cara, a Lexington native, did the following audio pitch for her alma mater for NYCollegeChat. (Be sure to listen to it in our recorded episode. Cara mentions the online virtual tour of the University of Kentucky campus, which is available here.)

Each of these six flagship universities is well enough known to attract students from many states and foreign countries, but most of the undergraduate students attending these campuses are home grown—ranging from about half of the students at West Virginia to about 85 percent of the students at Tennessee. For some of the universities, that could mean that a solid application from outside of the state would be viewed with interest, and your child could likely get a great education at a cost lower than at a private school in your home state—that is, before any financial aid package is figured in. More important, as we said in an earlier episode, these six flagship universities are better academically and more widely recognized than many private colleges in the U.S., and there is no prestige in attending a private college that is not as good as a great public university.

3. Other Public State Universities

In these six Northern Southeast states, there are also other public universities—some are branches of the flagship campus, but others are universities in their own right. Interestingly, each state has at least one public university designated as one of our nation’s HBCUs (historically black colleges and universities).

Virginia has a number of public universities that are well known outside the state, starting with the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg in southwest Virginia (commonly known today as Virginia Tech, though it was known as V.P.I. some years ago before the legislature changed its name), which offers about 90 undergraduate majors in seven undergraduate colleges to about 24,000 undergraduates, about 70 percent of whom are Virginia residents. With a large total enrollment of about 31,000 students, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Maryland are four of the top five home states for out-of-state students.

Other large and well-known public universities in Virginia include George Mason University, Old Dominion University, and Virginia Commonwealth University—with total enrollments from about 24,000 to 32,000 students.

But perhaps the most respected public university in Virginia is actually one that doesn’t sound public, and that is the College of William & Mary, located in Williamsburg. The second oldest college in the U.S., William & Mary was chartered by King William III and Queen Mary II in 1693 in the Virginia Colony. The college cut its ties with England in 1775 and became state supported in 1903 (and coeducational in 1918). Unlike most public universities, William & Mary is small—just about 6,000 undergraduates and 2,000 graduate students. Even so, its has over 400 student organizations. Students at William & Mary are smart and accomplished, and it is quite selective in admitting students. But, if you have the high school record to go, it is a fantastic education at a public price for Virginia students—though out-of-state students are going to be paying private college tuition rates to attend (about $35,000 a year currently). William & Mary is proud of its “firsts,” including the first Greek-letter society (Phi Beta Kappa, founded in 1776), the first student honor code, the first college to become a university, and the first law school in America.

Going from smallest to biggest, let’s take a quick look in North Carolina at North Carolina State University in Raleigh—not too far from UNC at Chapel Hill. NC State is actually the largest higher education institution in the state, serving a total of about 34,000 undergraduate, graduate, and professional students in 12 colleges, including the College of Textiles and the College of Natural Resources among all the usual choices.   NC State offers its 24,000 undergraduate students over 100 majors and 700 student organizations to choose from. Engineering was the top declared major of incoming freshmen last year. The average high school GPA of these incoming freshmen was a 3.66, with SAT scores in math and reading of 1248—good grades and scores for such a large university. Just as with Virginia Tech, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Maryland are four of the top five home states for out-of-state students.

And before leaving North Carolina, let us say a word about the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, one of 17 campuses of the University of North Carolina and located in Winston-Salem.   The UNC School of the Arts is a well known and respected institution among those in the arts world. It offers high school diplomas as well as undergraduate and graduate degrees. Undergraduate students can earn degrees in dance, design and production (includes visual arts), drama, filmmaking, and music. As with all fine arts schools, there is a rigorous interview and/or audition process for admitting its approximately 850 undergraduates—about half in-state and half out-of-state students.

Before leaving public universities in this region, let’s take a quick look at just some of the public HBCUs in these states. (For more about HBCUs, see our show notes from our last episode, Episode 30.) They are smaller—sometimes quite a bit smaller—than most of the other public universities in their own states and typically draw more students from their home states, but they do offer a cultural experience for students and a campus history that is different from what other public universities offer. West Virginia State University, located in Institute, West Virginia, a suburb of the capital of Charleston, offers about 20 majors to its 2,800 undergraduate students (the slight majority of whom are now white). Kentucky State University, located in the state capital of Frankfort, offers 24 bachelor’s degree majors to its 1,800 undergraduate students (about three-quarters of whom are black).

The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff offers more than 30 majors across its four academic schools—including the School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences—to about 2,300 undergraduate students; about 90 percent of UAPB students are black, and about 65 percent are Arkansas residents. Both Virginia State University, located about 20 minutes south of the capital of Richmond in the village of Ettrick, and Norfolk State University, located in Norfolk, offer majors across five or six undergraduate schools and colleges to about 4,500 undergraduates (about 80 percent of their students are black, and about 80 percent are Virginia residents).

Tennessee State University, located on two campuses in Nashville, offers 45 bachelor’s degree programs across seven undergraduate colleges and schools—including the College of Public Service and Urban Affairs—to its 7,100 undergraduate students (it has another 2,000 graduate students); it merged with the University of Tennessee at Nashville in 1979 to form a new institution serving students of all races, though its current student body is about 70 percent black.

North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University, located in Greensboro, offers 55 degrees through seven schools and colleges to about 9,000 undergraduate students (there are another 1,500 graduate students). NC A&T’s students are about 75 percent black, and about 80 percent are North Carolina residents. Winston-Salem State University, Fayetteville State University, and North Carolina Central University in Durham all serve about 6,000 undergraduates. Their student bodies range from about 65 to 80 percent black, and about 90 percent of their students are North Carolina residents. Though smaller than many other public universities in North Carolina, they have some unique programs. For example, Winston-Salem has a bachelor’s degree in Motorsports Management, and NC Central offers bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Jazz Studies and is the only HBCU in the nation with a School of Library and Information Sciences.

As we have said before, all of these public universities (and there are even more in these states than those we mentioned here) would cost an out-of-state student more than a public university in his or her own state, but less than most private colleges. So, consider looking at public universities beyond just the flagship university, for the special programs or the appealing locations or the sense of history and tradition that they offer.

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Episode 18: Spotlight on Summers

This week, we’re putting a spotlight on summer activities as part of our Getting Ready to Apply series.

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This week, we continue our series on Getting Ready to Apply with a spotlight on summer activities.

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NYCollegeChat Episode 18 Spotlight on Summers

One college application I looked at recently asked the student I was working with to detail what he had done each summer while in high school. Somehow we knew that hanging around with friends and playing pick-up basketball or going to the local pool just wasn’t what the college was looking for. Knowing this in advance—we are speaking to you, parents of ninth graders—will help you work with your child to plan significant summer activities, which not only are useful when it is time to fill out college applications, but also help make your child’s out-of-school life richer and more meaningful.

If your child needs to work in the summer to help support the family, then that has to come first. But, hopefully, there will be some time when he or she can also engage in some of the activities we are going to discuss here. If your child is looking at a selective college, then summer should not be viewed as a time to rest, but rather as a time for your child to follow some interest or refine some talent or learn some new thing or do some good for others. While we cannot provide an exhaustive list of every possible summer activity, we can offer broad categories of the more common ones.

1. High School and College Study

Ever since high schools became a part of our public schooling in the U.S., some students have gone to “summer school.” Often, those were students who needed to retake classes they had failed during the school year. However, there were others who went to summer school to get ahead so that they could take more advanced or different courses during the school year. Accelerated or enriched high school study in the summer is a time-honored tradition and would be a very reasonable summer activity, from a college’s point of view.

But, even better, would be study at a college. U.S. colleges have more summer programs than you can count for reasonably bright and/or interested high school students. Some courses are part of full-time residential programs on the campus; others are not. Unlike taking free high school courses, courses at a college can be expensive; but, fortunately, scholarships are often available.

How do you find a college course? Look up colleges in your hometown to see what they offer. Or look up out-of-town colleges that your child might be interested in attending, because a summer course is a great way to get to know a campus. Or look up college courses for high school students by subject field—such as courses or programs in engineering, music, etc.

To take one example, Cornell University has a broad array of summer courses that high school students can take for three weeks or six weeks—and earn college credit for—in fields as different as veterinary medicine, social change, biological research, literature, government, computer science, art, business, and architecture. In addition to all those, Cornell’s College of Engineering runs two intensive one-week programs—The CURIE Academy for girls who excel in math and science and CATALYST for students of ethnic and racial backgrounds that are underrepresented in the fields of engineering, math, and science—as well as the six-week Cornell Engineering Experience for students who excel in math and science.

To take another example, if your child is drawn to historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), Hampton University in Virginia offers about a dozen summer programs for high school students—some residential, some not. For students from New York, going to a summer program at Hampton is a great way to experience life at an HBCU in a lovely and very different geographical setting.

A final note: If your high school does not offer students the opportunity to take college courses of any kind during the school year, then a course taken at a college in the summer—especially one that earns college credit—would be a particularly attractive option for your child. Being able to say on a college application that you have already taken and succeeded in a college course somewhere at some time is, obviously, an advantage.

For families that are interested in sending students outside the U.S. to study in the summer, there are certainly many programs to be had, with individual colleges sponsoring many of them and offering college credit for the classes students take while abroad. While these programs are understandably pricey, scholarships can be had. This is almost an irresistible summer combination—college study and seeing the world. Great for college applications and great for life!

2. Family Travel

We have found that quite a few students in New York City have close family connections in other countries, often in the country that their parents emigrated from. Many of these students go home to these countries during the summer to visit relatives for several weeks or more, often making it difficult for students to engage in other kinds of summer activities set up by their schools or in their local communities. Students can take advantage of these family trips—for example, by keeping up with a native or second language, by visiting cultural sites, or by working in a family business—and find something interesting to write about on their college applications.

Other families might take a short trip to a different part of the U.S. or to a different country near or far. As always, giving students a close look at important historical sites or art museums or architecturally magnificent churches or geologic wonders makes it possible for them to write in more detail and more interestingly about these summer vacations on their college applications.

3. Internships and Volunteer Work

We talked a lot about internships and volunteer work in our last episodes. We made the case then that engaging in internships and/or volunteer work lets a college know that a student is responsible and dependable, takes initiative, and, depending on the assignment, cares about others. From the student’s side, an internship or volunteer assignment helps the student explore career interests and potential college majors.

As we said, summer is a great time to talk with local church youth groups about mission trips to nearby or far away urban or rural areas in or outside of the U.S. where teenagers can do a host of volunteer jobs for the young, the old, the sick, or the homeless—from cleaning up a park to repainting a house to playing games to serving a hot lunch to reading aloud. Having teenagers do work that helps others, while under the supervision of caring adults, is a win for everyone.

Summer is also a great time to think about politics. It seems these days that there is always an upcoming election, even if it is really more than a year away. Local, state, and national office-seekers can use plenty of extra hands to stuff envelopes, put up posters, and get signatures on petitions. Media-savvy teenagers can often reach out to voters in ways that older adults do not even entirely understand. It’s a powerful way to learn about American government and political science firsthand.

Summer is also a great time to pursue a volunteer assignment in a hospital or nursing home. Many high school students—and indeed college students—interested in attending medical school and pursuing a career in medicine look for these volunteer opportunities, so students should not wait too long to line up this kind of assignment.

Summer internships—in which a student has a chance to try out a future career field, under the mentorship of a successful individual already working in the field—are even harder to get than volunteer assignments, so students need to start looking for those in the early, early spring. Parents, remember that high schoolers will be in competition with college students for internships in many career fields, which makes an early search even more important.

4. Community Activities

In our earlier episode entitled “Activities, Activities, Activities,” we talked about the many kinds of community activities that students might engage in during the school year, but most of them are likely to be available in the summer, too—from community sports teams to community theater productions to programs at community centers or local museums. Some of these—like sports teams and theater productions—require some talent and skill, but others might be more educational and easier to join. All of them are productive uses of a student’s free time in the summer, and all of these would be good summer activities to write about on college applications.

Listen to the podcast to find out about…

  • More summer study programs for high school students
  • How to turn a part-time job into a rewarding internship experience
  • Getting high school credit for an internship

Check out these higher education institutions and programs we mention…

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