Monday, July 13, 2015
To the VCU Community,
Last August—as part of our enduring commitment to diversity in all its forms—I convened a task force charged with looking at how we recruit, enroll, retain and ultimately graduate under-represented minority students, particular from the Richmond region.
Fewer under-represented minority undergraduate students were enrolling at VCU in recent years. So, I asked this taskforce to develop thoughtful strategies and recommend ways that we will remain a recognized leader in diversity while ensuring that the transformational educational experience of our national research university is available to all qualified students—especially those who live, work and learn in Central Virginia, and are most likely to remain here as leaders in our region.
This taskforce has completed its work, and I am proud to share with you six recommendations that I believe will further improve the beautiful diversity of our university and give more students a chance to succeed here—and beyond.
1. Continue VCU’s decision to implement a standardized test-optional admission process for freshman applicants who meet specific academic and program criteria. The test optional admission policy should be widely communicated to multiple constituencies both on and off-campus and especially to students and their families, as well as principals and guidance counselors at the schools in Central Virginia. It also will be important to analyze data to determine if this program is effective.
2. Designate 20 percent of the need-based financial aid of the institutional awarded funds for students residing in Central Virginia, and allow this institutional need-based aid to increase as tuition increases. Assertively communicate financial aid application deadlines to Central Virginia schools. At VCU, our limited need-based institutional aid is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis, which does not favor students who have less college-going familiarity.
3. Work with deans and chairs to highlight scholarships to students from Central Virginia as a priority in the upcoming comprehensive campaign. Increasing financial relief to these students will be more successful with widespread support and promotion at the school and unit level.
4. Partner in a deliberate and structured manner with the school districts of Central Virginia. Such relationships include regular interactions with superintendents, principals, school counselors and organizations that provide services to the schools.
5. Working closely with the school districts, offer college credit-bearing classes, at no charge, to motivated and qualified high school students in Central Virginia, on the campus of VCU. Such classes will enable students to become familiar with the academic rigor of a university and the student culture and give them an early start in their academic career at VCU.
6. To promote student retention and graduation, VCU should structure and provide internships, career exploration, enhanced advising and academic programming, and encourage participation in VCU’s living-learning programs.
In the course of its work, the task force met with stakeholders from the school districts, the Richmond Metropolitan Statistical Region and the VCU community and completed a thorough review of best practices across the country. Their recommendations—which I fully endorse—mark a clear path forward for enhancing the diversity of our student body and the likelihood that more of our students will succeed, graduate and become the leaders and catalysts who will transform Central Virginia in profound ways.
I thank the members of this task force for their thoughtful and important work, including co-chairs Vice President for Inclusive Excellence Wanda Mitchell and President Emeritus Eugene Trani. Their strong leadership, and the work of their colleagues, exemplifies VCU’s commitment to diversity in all of its forms and to the enduring success of all of our people.