The latest rate is based on figures for the Class of 1997, and represents an improvement of 8 percentage points over totals for the Class of 1996. It is the highest since AHANA students in the Class of 1992 attained an 89 percent graduation rate. University administrators add that the overall graduation rate for the Class of 1997 was 87 percent; nationally, the average graduation rate for comparable institutions is 56 percent.
Administrators say the trend reflects BC's long-standing commitment to maintain a diverse student population, an endeavor reflected in the University's academic and non-academic sectors.
"This is a wonderful accomplishment," said Academic Vice President and Dean of Faculties John J. Neuhauser. "We are enormously pleased not only with the overall rate of AHANA students graduating, but that there's so little dispersion between groups. There are a number of people who can take pride: the AHANA Student Programs Office, the Options Through Education and Learning to Learn programs, Student Services, Admissions - the list goes on.
"But we have to give credit where it's due: to the students themselves."
AHANA Student Programs Director Donald Brown said the University's success in recruiting and retaining students of color has acquired a momentum of its own. He singled out AHANA alumni for their efforts in promoting BC to potential students, on a formal and informal basis.
"They will refer brothers, sisters, cousins, friends and acquaintances," explained Brown. "There are also alumni old enough now to bring their own children. But our AHANA alumni also do a very good job of reaching out beyond immediate family to schools and communities. So, over a number of years now, the word has gone out that Boston College is an excellent institution, and that if you get in, in all likelihood you will graduate."
Brown also praised the work of the Office of Undergraduate Admission, and in particular Senior Assistant Director Stephen Pemberton and Associate Director Richard Escobar.
"Steve and Richard, and their colleagues, have helped BC form strong ties with schools and communities across the country," he said. "They have ensured that the word about Boston College will go out there, too."
But it is the various kinds of support available to AHANA students on campus that helps determine their success, administrators say. "AHANA students know there is a place they can turn to," said Brown. "Whether their needs are academic, social, spiritual, cultural or personal, they know our office is here to help them find what they're looking for. That is a tremendous source of confidence."
One example of support Brown cites is the Benjamin Mays Mentoring Program, now in its 10th year, which matches AHANA students with any one of almost 110 administrators, faculty and staff who volunteer to serve as mentors. The annual AHANA Scholars Reception is another means by which the University provides encouragement to AHANA undergraduates.
The spiritual life of AHANA students is also an integral part of their Boston College experience, Brown said. He notes the on-campus presence of Rev. Howard McClendon, pastor of the Massachusetts Avenue Baptist Church, who helps coordinate retreats and other activities such as the "Gospel Caravan," which brings students from BC and other area colleges and universities to church services.
"It is this attention to personal and spiritual growth that makes an impression on students and their families," said Brown, "and becomes part of the message told about Boston College."
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