Amber Heard in "Drive Angry

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Anyone interested in historically black colleges will want to consider Clark Atlanta University. Located in the heart of bustling, cosmopolitan Atlanta, Georgia, this coed university boasts both graduate and undergraduate programs and a long history. Here's the scoop:
  • The College: Clark Atlanta (CAU) represents a fairly recent - 1988 - merger of two very old and well-respected schools, Atlanta University and Clark College. The graduate Atlanta University dates back to 1865, while Clark was founded in 1869 by the United Methodist Church. Today this research university, which sits on 126 acres about a mile and a half from Atlanta's downtown, is ranked 17th out of 39 on the U.S. News & World Report's list of historically black schools. Its 3,941 students - which include 674 grad students - have a choice of 38 fields of study. Courses run on the semester system so classes typically start in August and run till mid-May. Clark Atlanta is part of the Atlanta University Center, a consortium of historically black colleges that include the all-male Morehouse College and all-female Spelman College.

  • The Tab: CAU is a private university. In 2010-11, tuition and fees were just a shade under $18,000 and room and board were $8,100, for an annual cost of $31,230. Freshmen and sophomores are required to live on campus in one of the university's seven dorms or apartment complexes. Students interested in Greek life should know that there are four social fraternities and four social sororities.
  • The College Town: Clark Atlanta is located in the historic West End of Atlanta, just blocks from Morehouse and Spelman. Atlanta, of course, is a bustling city with its own ballet company, a world renowned aquarium, fine dining and hotels in every price range. (Some hotels offer discounts to college visitors, so be sure to call and ask before booking a room.) The urban location also means plenty of internship and future career opportunities for your kid, a definite consideration these days, given the job market.

    You’ll be flying into Atlanta International Airport, a Delta hub served by nearly every other major airline too. Winter temperatures hover in the 50s, although last winter was unexpectedly icy); summers are humid, with temperatures in the high 80s. If you are visiting as part of a family college-scouting expedition, note that Emory and Georgia Tech are also in Atlanta, and the University of Georgia is 90 minutes away.

  • More Important Details: CAU describes its students' experience as studying at "the leading edge of greatness," which may be one of the most inspiring slogans I've come across in a while. What most universities call research-centric departments or schools, CAU dubs "Centers of Excellence," so the highly regarded business school, for example is a "Centers of Excellence: School of Business." There's a Center of Excellence in Media Arts, as well. And I'd poke fun at the grandiose terminology, except that the department boasts four radio stations as well as cutting-edge media labs and programs in all facets of the media arts, and it's all geared toward increasing the number of African Americans at the top of the communications industry food chain - which is, well, excellent. Similarly, the tech Center for Excellence isn't some generic IT program, it's a Center for Computational Intelligence for National Security whose research-based academics draw funding from the Department of Defense and other government agencies.
    This is an NCAA Division II school whose Panthers play football, baseball, volleyball, basketball and other sports.

    In short, CAU has so many positive things going for it, but parents and prospective students should be aware of two more issues, which may or may not matter to you. First, the gender distribution at most universities these days has shifted rather dramatically, so while we parents probably attended colleges with more male than female students, our kids are likely to find the ratio tilted in the other direction. That's particularly so here: 72% of CAU's students are women. (Male students may be delighted. Female students might not be. It depends on the student.)

    And second, CAU went through massive faculty layoffs in 2009, dismissing 55 professors - a quarter of the faculty - in a move that earned it the censure of the American Association of University Professors. The university claimed the move was a result of an "enrollment emergency" - that enrollment was expected to plummet from around 4,000 students to 3,200. That did not happen, but faculty figures have held steady at 175 anyway. Layoffs on that scale send ripples of devastation through an organization. At a university, the impact is felt in the classroom and lecture halls, in larger class sizes and reduced course offerings, and in professors' morale, which impacts students in ways they may not be able to articulate but will certainly feel. It has been two years since those cuts, so things may be settling down, but it's something to consider.
  • Incoming Frosh Stats: The school accepts about 69% of its applicants and the admitted freshman class represents a wide range of academic abilities. Nearly half (46%) the incoming freshmen had a high school GPA between 2.5 and a 2.99. Another 31% fell into the 3.0-3.49 range. Mid-range SAT scores were 400-480 out of 800 for critical reading and 390-470 for math. The average ACT score was 18-21.
  • Learn More: Visit the campus web site, which includes details on admissions information and campus tours, which are held on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and specially scheduled Saturdays. The campus itself is located at ?223 James P. Brawley Drive, SW, in Atlanta, Georgia.
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