Task force tackles declining enrollment in under-represented minority students

Virginia Commonwealth University has established a task force to investigate ways to increase the enrollment of under-represented minority students from the Richmond area, following a decline in recent years of students from that demographic attending VCU.

The task force, which is called the President’s Task Force on Innovative Recruitment of Under-represented High School Students from Central Virginia, will focus its work on 21 school districts in the Richmond area.

“We take pride in the diversity of our students and the relationship that we maintain with the local community,” said Wanda Mitchell, Ed.D., vice president for inclusive excellence. “We will be exploring opportunities to create innovative recruitment and retention initiatives to increase the number of under-represented students from the Richmond area who are enrolling and graduating annually from VCU.”

VCU has seen a decline in the applications, acceptances and enrollments of under-represented minority students in general, and those from Richmond and its surrounding communities in particular.

Locally, the university has seen the sharpest decline in black students. In the fall of 2010, VCU received 722 applications from black students at public high schools in the Richmond metro area. The university accepted 314 of those students and 162 of them enrolled. In fall 2014, those numbers had dropped for that same cohort of students to 541 applications, 246 acceptances and 110 enrollments. That’s a decline of 25.1 percent in applications, 21.7 percent in acceptances and 32.1 percent in enrollments.

Those numbers are part of an overall decline in students from public high schools in the Richmond area – from 2,776 applications, 1,802 acceptances and 918 enrollments in fall 2010 to 2,302 applications, 1,655 acceptances and 757 enrollments in fall 2014, signaling declines of  17.1 percent in applications, 8.2 percent in acceptances and 17.5 percent in enrollments.

The task force will research ways to reverse the trend through strategies in areas such as:

°     Using non-cognitive approaches for identifying high school students with strong potential.

°    The effectiveness of standard measures of achievement, including standardized tests.

°    Financial aid strategies to support students.

°    Comprehensive academic advising.

°    Mentoring and coaching services.

°    Academic support services.

°    Career planning.

°    Community engagement.

Mitchell and Eugene Trani, Ph.D., president emeritus, serve as co-chairs of the task force, which includes not only VCU faculty and staff but representatives from the local community.


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Wanda Mitchell, Ed.D.
Wanda Mitchell, Ed.D.