More Than 4 Million African Americans Hold Four-Year College Degrees

At the time of the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s, at best 10,000 American blacks — one in 1,000 — were college educated. There are now more than 4.2 million African Americans alive today who hold a four-year college degree.

The breakdown is as follows: According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are 3,021,000 blacks in this country who hold a bachelor’s but no higher degree. And there are an additional 952,000 African Americans who have a four-year college degree and who also hold a master’s degree. Another 166,000 blacks hold a professional degree in fields such as law, business, and medicine. Finally, 113,000 African Americans have obtained a doctorate. Overall, 4,252,000 African Americans possess a four-year college degree or higher.

In 2007, 18.5 percent of all African Americans over the age of 25 held a college degree. This figure has increased significantly from 13.8 percent in 1996 and 11.3 percent in 1990.


Long-Term Trend in Black Student Graduation Rates at the Nation’s Highest-Ranked Liberal Arts Colleges

In 2007, 15 of the 22 high-ranked liberal arts colleges for which JBHE has long-range data showed an improvement in black student graduation rates from their 1998 rates. At Oberlin College in Ohio, there was a huge 23 percentage point improvement in the decade from 56 percent to 79 percent. At Macalester College in Minnesota, there was a 20 percentage point gain since 1998. At Wellesley, Davidson, Trinity, and Smith, the black student graduation rate improved by 11 percentage points or more over the past eight years.

Six highly ranked liberal arts colleges saw a decline in their black student graduation rate over the past decade. The largest drop was at Haverford College in Pennsylvania. In 1998 the school posted a black graduation rate of 93 percent. This year the African-American student graduation rate stands at 84 percent. But it is important to note that the black student graduation rate at Haverford rose by three percentage points this year.

For reasons that are unclear, Vassar College, Bowdoin College, Hamilton College, and Washington and Lee University have also shown significant decreases in their black student graduation rates in recent years.


Black Academics Honored With Book Awards

Stephen L. Carter, professor at Yale Law School, received the Fiction Literary Award from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association. Professor Carter was recognized for his novel New England White.

The winner in the nonfiction category is Arnold Rampersad, Sara Hart Kimball Professor in the Humanities at Stanford University. Professor Rampersad was recognized for his critically acclaimed book Ralph Ellison: A Biography.

Deborah Willis, University Professor at New York University, was awarded the Outstanding Contribution to Publishing Citation for her book Let Your Motto Be Resistance: African American Portraits.

In a more significant nationwide contest, Arnold Rampersad’s biography of Ralph Ellison was selected as a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. Rampersad will be competing with four other finalists for the award, which will be given out in New York City on March 6.

Also nominated for National Book Critics Circle Awards is Edwidge Danticat for her autobiography Brother, I’m Dying. A graduate of Barnard College with a master’s degree from Brown University, Danticat has taught creative writing at New York University and the University of Miami.

Harriet A. Washington, a former fellow at Harvard Medical School and the Harvard School of Public Health, was nominated in the nonfiction category for her book Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans From Colonial Times to the Present.


Black Youth Whom Court Ruled Was Subjected to “Cruel and Unusual Punishment” Now Enrolled at Morehouse College

In 2003 Genarlow Wilson, a 17-year-old black youth from Douglasville, Georgia, was arrested for having consensual oral sex with a 15-year-old black teenage girl at a New Year’s Eve party. The act was captured on videotape and used as evidence. Wilson was charged with the felony of aggravated child molestation. The minimum sentence for persons convicted of this crime is 10 years in prison.

This past October, the Georgia Supreme Court ruled that Wilson’s sentence was cruel and unusual punishment. He was ordered released from jail after serving two years of his 10-year sentence.

Now, through the help of the Tom Joyner Foundation, Wilson is going to college. He is enrolled for the spring semester at Morehouse College, the prestigious liberal arts institution for black men in Atlanta. The foundation is paying for his full tuition, room and board, and books. Wilson hopes to join the Morehouse College football team this coming fall.

Wilson told the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, “I’m not mad about anything that happened. It helped me grow as a person, made me stronger, made me more ambitious. I was at the lowest point in life. Now everything I wanted to do can finally happen.”

Morehouse College president Robert M. Franklin stated, “We are delighted to now welcome into the fold a very promising young brother who had a very difficult start, but we expect to have a terrific finish.”


A Facelift for Allen University

Allen University in Columbia, South Carolina, a historically black college affiliated with the African Methodist Episcopal Church, was founded in 1870. The university has about 600 students, almost all of whom are black.

Currently the university has dormitory rooms for 340 students. But at least one dormitory is more than a century old. About 100 students are housed in rental units off-campus and are bused to classrooms.

Now the university has broken ground on two new dormitories that will house 480 students. The $16 million project was financed by a grant from the U.S. Department of Education.

The dormitories are being constructed on a lot occupied by the Robert Weston Manse House, which served as the residence of the university president. The house is being moved to a new location on campus.



Three New England Colleges Eliminate Student Loans

Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, announced that beginning this coming fall it would eliminate loans for all students on financial aid and substitute them with scholarship grants. In making the announcement, Bowdoin president Barry Mills stated that the college is the only school with need-blind admissions and an endowment of less than $1 billion that has eliminated all loans from its financial aid packages.

Current first-year students at Bowdoin were expected to graduate in 2011 with an average debt load of $21,000. The new financial aid program is estimated to add $22 million to the college’s financial aid budget.

Blacks make up about 5 percent of the student body at Bowdoin College.

One day after the Bowdoin announcement, Colby College in Maine announced that it too would eliminate student loans from its financial aid packages for new and returning students. This past October, Colby College had eliminated loans for students on financial aid who were residents of the state of Maine.

Dartmouth College also announced sweeping new changes in its financial aid program. Now students from families with incomes of less than $75,000 will no longer be expected to contribute to the cost of tuition expenses. In addition, loans will be eliminated for all students on financial aid. Dartmouth will also expand its need-blind admissions policy to international students.

Dartmouth estimates that this new policy will add $10 million to its current $61 million financial aid budget.



• Johnnetta B. Cole, who served as president of both Spelman College and Bennett College for Women, will receive the ROBIE Humanitarian Award from the Jackie Robinson Foundation. The award will be presented this March at the foundation’s annual awards dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City.

• Cornel West, Class of 1943 University Professor of Religion at Princeton University, was the honoree in the education category at the first annual Black Entertainment Television Honors held at the Warner Theater in Washington, D.C.



Elizabeth City State University, the historically black educational institution in North Carolina, received a $380,000 federal grant to replace blackboards on its campus with whiteboards and overhead projectors. The grant will also be used to create a wireless network on campus.

Johnson C. Smith University, the historically black educational institution in Charlotte, North Carolina, received a $50,000 grant from the Dowd Foundation. The grant will be used to complete renovations to the campus’ historic Carnegie Building.

The university also received a $50,000 grant from the Cannon Foundation, which will be used to make renovations to residence halls on campus.

Study Finds That Racial Diversity on Many Campuses Is Due Mainly to the Recruitment of Black Athletes

A study by the online journal Inside Higher Ed demonstrates that the level of racial diversity on many college campuses is due primarily to the enrollment of black male athletes. The study found that at 96 of the 330 colleges and universities in the NCAA Division I, black male scholarship athletes make up at least 20 percent of the total of all black male students. At 46 schools, black scholarship athletes are a third of all black students.

A large percentage of black male students at public universities in states with very small black populations are athletes. These black students are usually recruited from outside the state, but the vast majority of the total student body comes from within the state. For example, 88 percent of the black male students at Montana State University are scholarship athletes. At the University of Maine, 66 percent of all black male students are athletes. At the University of Nevada, 64 percent of all black males on campus are scholarship athletes.

Athletes also make up a large percentage of the black students at several highly selective colleges and universities. Among the selective private colleges and universities where black athletes make up more than 40 percent of all black male students are Colgate University, the College of the Holy Cross, Furman University, Lafayette College, Rice University, Villanova University, and Wake Forest University.


“While eliminating loans for our students on financial aid will be expensive, Bowdoin will not abandon its commitment to educate the poorest in our society in order to fund this new initiative.”

Barry Mills, president of Bowdoin College, announcing that all student loans will be replaced by scholarship grants (See story below.)


A Law Professor’s Unique Sabbatical

A. Peter Mutharika is a professor of law at Washington University in St. Louis. He is currently on sabbatical in his native Malawi. There he is serving as the chief adviser to the president on constitutional, legal, and international affairs. The president of Malawi is Bingu wa Mutharika, the professor’s brother. Professor Mutharika reports that “the main issues facing Malawi are issues of food security, which we have now accomplished, better health for our people, better opportunities for education, infrastructural development and better access to clean water by more people.”

Professor Mutharika is the author of the forthcoming book, Foreign Investment Security in Sub-Saharan Africa (Leiden: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 2008). When he returns to Washington University this coming fall, he will become Charles Nagel Professor of International and Comparative Law. Nagel, an 1885 graduate of the Washington University School of Law, served in the Missouri House of Representatives and as secretary of commerce under President William Howard Taft.


New Magazine on Poverty Debuts at Stanford University

The Center for the Study of Poverty and Inequality at Stanford University recently published the inaugural issue of Pathways, a new quarterly magazine that will highlight policy issues relating to poverty in the United States. The new magazine is available in print and online versions at no cost. The effort is supported by a grant from the Elfenworks Foundation.

The first issue showcased a symposium where the leading contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination discussed their strategies for dealing with poverty.

JBHE readers interested in downloading the current issue, or joining the e-mail list for future issues, can do so by clicking here.



FAMU Finally Gets Some Good News Regarding Accreditation

Last month JBHE reported that the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools decided to keep Florida A&M University on accreditation probation for at least another six months. New FAMU president James Ammons called the accreditation decision “very disappointing.”

But this month he received some better news. The Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education took FAMU’s College of Pharmacy off probation and renewed its accreditation through 2010. The council had placed the college on probation in 2007 due to concerns about curriculum, staffing levels, and quality of teaching facilities.


11.0%  Percentage of pregnant white women in 2004 who smoked cigarettes.

8.2%  Percentage of pregnant African-American women in 2004 who smoked cigarettes.

source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


University of Wisconsin Campuses Examine Minority Recruitment and Retention

Several campuses of the University of Wisconsin system have developed an “Equity Scorecard” to measure success in recruiting and retaining black and other minority students. Participating campuses include those at Milwaukee, Waukesha, Kenosha, and Whitewater. The flagship campus at Madison was not involved.

Some of the findings of the scorecard were:

  • Black students at these campuses were three times as likely as white students to have off-campus jobs. The necessity of holding down a job while in college can adversely impact grades and therefore retention rates.

  • Remedial programs designed to help students at risk of dropping out have had little or no beneficial effect for blacks and other minorities.

  • Black and other minority students are more likely than whites to attend college part-time. Full-time students tend to perform better academically than part-time students.


Company Provides $18.5 Million in Scholarships for Students at Historically Black Colleges and Universities

Siemens Building Technologies, a supplier of fire and security systems for buildings which is headquartered in Buffalo Grove, Illinois, recently gave out $18.5 million scholarships to more than 300 students in the Chicago Public School System who will enroll at 24 historically black colleges and universities. Some of the scholarships cover all of a student’s expenses at the HBCU he or she will attend while others are only partial scholarships.

In order to qualify for the scholarships, students need to achieve a 3.0 grade point average in high school and to score at least 21 on the ACT college admissions examination. Only about 12 percent of all black ACT test takers nationwide score 21 or above on the ACT test.


Lawsuit Charges That Student Lending Practices of Sallie Mae Are Racially Discriminatory

Two students — one Hispanic and one African American — have filed what they hope will be a class-action race discrimination lawsuit against Sallie Mae, the nation’s leading provider of student loans. The lawsuit claims that Sallie Mae discriminates against minority students by basing its interest rate for student loans on the default rates at particular colleges and universities. Educational institutions that serve large numbers of black and other minority students often have high default rates, making student loans costlier for all students who attend these institutions.


In Memoriam

Gwendolyn T. Britt, 1941-2008

Maryland state senator Gwendolyn T. Britt, who spent a lifetime as a civil rights activist, died earlier this month at a hospital in Latham, Maryland. She was 66 years old.

Britt was a native of Washington, D.C. As a student at Howard University in 1960, she led a protest at the racially segregated Glen Echo Park in Montgomery County, Maryland. In 1961 she dropped out of Howard University to join the Freedom Riders. During the Freedom Rides, she spent 40 days in a Mississippi jail for taking a seat in a whites-only waiting room at a train station.

It would be more than 40 years before Britt completed her undergraduate education, earning a bachelor’s degree at Bowie State University. She was elected to the Maryland state Senate in 2003.



• Makola Abdullah was appointed dean of the College of Engineering Sciences, Technology, and Agriculture at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee. Abdullah has been on the faculty at the university since 1996.

Dr. Abdullah earned his Ph.D. in civil engineering at Northwestern University. He is the youngest African American to receive an engineering doctorate at Northwestern.

• Mechelle English was named senior director of development for the School of Medicine at the University of South Carolina. She was vice president for institutional advancement at South Carolina State University.

English is a graduate of the University of South Carolina and has done graduate work at the University of Oklahoma and Georgia Tech.

• Ray Mobley, an associate professor of animal science at Florida A&M University,  was reappointed to the Advisory Committee on Beginning Farmers and Ranchers of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Dr. Mobley is a graduate of Florida A&M University. He holds a master’s degree in public health from Tulane University and a degree in veterinary medicine from Tuskegee University.

• John W. Garland, president of Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio, was appointed to the governing board of the Edison Materials Technology Center in Kettering, Ohio. The center is a nonprofit organization that works to develop business strategies to bring new technologies to the marketplace.



Copyright © 2008. The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education. All rights reserved.