Obama Administration Proposes Major Increase in Pell Grant Funding

The president’s plan to freeze spending apparently does not apply to the Pell Grant program. The president’s new budget calls for increasing the maximum Pell Grant award from $5,350 to $5,710.

But even more ambitious is the administration’s plan to make Pell Grants an entitlement program. This means that every student who qualifies for aid would receive funds and Congress would not have to appropriate money each year to fund the program. The change is expected to add as many as 1 million more students to the Pell Grant program. Since blacks receive a disproportionate share of all Pell Grants, this would be a major boost to African-American higher education.

If the administration’s plan is approved by Congress, spending on the Pell Grant program will have almost doubled, from $18 billion to $35 billion, since Obama took office.


The University of Massachusetts Has an Innovative New Plan to Increase the Racial Diversity of Its Medical School

About 16 percent of the population of the state of Massachusetts is either black or Hispanic. Yet only 5 percent of the physicians in the state are black or Hispanic.

In an effort to increase the number of minority doctors in the state, the University of Massachusetts Medical School is setting aside 12 places in each 125-member first-year class for students in a new program designed to increase racial diversity at the school. The new program will give high school seniors who are members of minority groups, or who are the first generation of their families to attend college, the opportunity to gain admission to college and medical school simultaneously. Students accepted into the program would study at one of the five undergraduate campuses of the University of Massachusetts. If they graduate and maintain a high academic standing, they would be guaranteed a spot at the medical school. Attractive financial aid packages will also be used to attract minority students to the program. Students applying for the program will sign a pledge to practice in Massachusetts after they complete medical school.


Long-Term Trend in Graduation Rates at Black Colleges Is Generally Good, But There Are Some Major Exceptions

JBHE has collected student graduation rate statistics going back to 1998 for a group of 35 historically black universities. The good news is that during this period 21 of the 35 colleges and universities have seen an improvement in their black student graduation rates. Fourteen black colleges and universities showed a decline in their black graduation rate.

Over the past decade there have been huge increases in graduation rates at some of these HBCUs. For example, at Howard University the black student graduation rate has improved from 47 percent in 1998 to 64 percent in 2009. Other schools showing large improvements in their black student graduation rates are Lincoln University in Missouri and Alcorn State University.

In contrast, the four-year average black graduation rate has declined significantly at Rust College in Holly Springs, Mississippi, Virginia Union University, Shaw University, Lincoln University of Pennsylvania, Grambling State University, Stillman College, and Fayetteville State University.



The Educational Crisis Affecting Black Males

The College Board recently released a new report: The Educational Crisis Facing Young Men of Color. The report includes the insights of 60 scholars who participated in four, one-day seminars on the problems facing young minority men including a lack of role models, community pressures, and a failing educational system. The report concludes that a more coordinated effort is needed between K-12 education, state administrators, and higher educational institutions “to help males of color get ready, get in, and get through college.”

The report identified programs that have been successful in achieving success among black males such as the Harlem Children’s Zone and the Call Me MISTER program headquartered at Clemson University, which seeks to bring more male minority teachers into K-12 education.

The full report from The College Board can be downloaded by clicking here.


College and Graduate Scholarships for Minority Students Aiming for Careers in Advertising and Public Relations

The Lagrant Foundation of Los Angeles is awarding 20 scholarships for minority undergraduate or graduate students majoring in disciplines that lead to careers in advertising, marketing, or public relations. African-American, Asian-American, Hispanic, and American Indian students are eligible for the scholarships. Applications are available at the foundation’s Web site.


36%  Percentage of full-tuition cost at a private four-year college in 1980 that was covered by a federal Pell Grant.

15%  Percentage of full-tuition cost at a private four-year college in 2007 that was covered by a federal Pell Grant.

source: American Council on Education


African-American College Student Crowned Miss America

Caressa Cameron, a student at Virginia Commonwealth University, was named Miss America. She is the seventh African American to win the Miss America crown. For winning the pageant, Cameron receives a $50,000 scholarship.


Unemployment Rate Declines, But Not for African Americans

The Obama administration was quick to herald a drop in the nation’s unemployment rate last month from 10 percent to 9.7 percent. But everyone is not cheering. The unemployment rate for African Americans actually increased from 16.2 percent to 16.5 percent. The unemployment rate for black men rose from 16.6 percent to 17.6 percent. Nearly 44 percent of black teenagers who were looking for work could not find a job.

Higher education is the best way to combat unemployment. Less than 5 percent of Americans with a college degree were unemployed in January.


Appointments, Promotions, and Resignations

• Angela “Laila” Hasan was named assistant professor of clinical education at the Rossier School of Education at the University of Southern California. Prior to joining the faculty she was a high school teacher and faculty adviser in the teacher education program at the University of California at Los Angeles.

• Vincent L. Wimbush, professor of religion and director of the Institute for Signifying Scriptures at the Claremont Graduate University in California, was elected president of the Society of Biblical Literature.

• Josephine Reed-Taylor was promoted to deputy commissioner of the Technical College System of Georgia. She was the assistant commissioner of adult education programs.

A graduate of Spelman College, Dr. Reed-Taylor holds a master’s degree and an educational doctorate from the University of Minnesota.

• Daniel L. Howard was named executive director of the Robert Wood Johnson Center for Health Policy at Meharry Medical College in Nashville. He was director of the Institute for Health, Social, and Community Research at Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Dr. Howard is a graduate of the University of Michigan. He holds a Ph.D. in health policy development and program evaluation from Vanderbilt University.

• John Bello-Ogunu was appointed associate vice president and chief diversity officer at the College of Charleston in South Carolina. He was the associate dean of students, director of multicultural affairs, and associate professor of communications at Wichita State University in Kansas.

Dr. Bello-Ogunu holds a master’s degree from Southern University and a Ph.D. in speech communication from Ohio University.

• Judy Marie Willis was appointed managing editor of the Journal of Best Practices in Health Professions Diversity: Research, Education, and Policy, a publication of the School of Health Sciences at Winston-Salem State University in North Carolina. She previously worked in the Office of Marketing and Communications at the university.


Honors and Awards

• Lillie P. Howard, senior vice president for curriculum and instruction and professor of English at Wright State University, received the Lifetime Achievement Award for her efforts to promote equity and diversity at the university.

Professor Howard is a graduate of the University of South Alabama. She holds a master’s degree and a Ph.D. from the University of New Mexico.

• Clarence W. Pearson Jr., chair of the department of architecture at the University of the District of Columbia, received the Paul Phillips Cooke Award during the university’s Founders’ Day ceremonies.

Professor Pearson is a graduate of Hampton University and holds a master’s degree in urban design from Catholic University of America.

The State University of New York at New Paltz has named its minority scholarship fund in honor of the late Margaret Wade-Lewis. Chair of the black studies department at the university, Dr. Wade-Lewis died from cancer on December 30, 2009. She had been on the faculty at the university for 36 years.

The university aims to raise $1 million for the Margaret Wade-Lewis Memorial Minority Recruitment Program Scholarship Endowment Fund by the end of this year.

Are Public Universities Failing in Their Mission to Enroll Minority and Low-Income Students?

Public universities in this country were established to give the common man access to higher education. State universities receive operating subsidies to keep their costs low so that middle-class citizens can afford to go to college.

But in a new report entitled Opportunity Adrift, The Education Trust, a research organization based in Washington, D.C., maintains that many of our public universities are failing in their mission. The report presents data which shows that in several states, the student demographics at the flagship university are not close to the demographics of the college-age population in the particular state. For example, in Georgia, in the spring of 2007, minorities made up 39 percent of the students who graduated from high school statewide. But the next fall, minorities made up just 9.4 percent of the students who enrolled at the University of Georgia.

The racial disparities are not confined to southern flagships. In Michigan, 20 percent of the high school graduates are minorities. But in 2007 minorities made up only 12.5 percent of the incoming students at the University of Michigan.

Furthermore, the report shows that in at least 15 states, the highest-ranked private universities enrolled a greater percentage of minority students than the flagship state university in that state. For example, at Dartmouth College, 21 percent of the student body are minorities. At the University of New Hampshire, only 5 percent of the students are minorities.

The full report can be downloaded at The Education Trust Web site.


“We need to be resolved as a nation that the educational crisis facing minority males is not going away any time soon.”

Roy Jones, director of the Mentors Instructing Students Toward Effective Role Models (MISTER) program at Clemson University, at a Capitol Hill briefing on the educational prospects of black males, 1-26-10 (See story below.)


New Institute Aims to Increase the Number of Scholars Pursuing Academic Careers in African-American Literature

The University of Texas at San Antonio has established the African-American Literatures and Cultures Institute, a three-week summer program designed to increase the number of students pursuing academic careers in African-American literature. The program will offer an intensive program for eight college juniors each year. Students will be selected through a competitive application procedure. Those accepted will be able to attend the institute free of charge and will receive a $2,000 research stipend.

The institute is under the direction of Howard Ramsby II, assistant professor of English and director of the black studies program at Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville. Dr. Ramsby is a 1999 graduate of Tougaloo College. He holds a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in English from Pennsylvania State University.


Veteran Educator Named Interim President at Alcorn State University

Norris Edney was named interim president of Alcorn State University, the historically black educational institution in Mississippi. George Ross, president of Alcorn State since 2008, is leaving to take over the presidency of Central Michigan University.

Dr. Edney will serve until a permanent replacement for Ross is found. Under state policy, interim presidents are not permitted to apply for the position on a permanent basis.

Since 2001 Dr. Edney, now 73 years old, has been serving as president of the Natchez-Adams School Board. Previously he had a 35-year career as a faculty member and administrator at Alcorn State University. He was professor and chair of the biology department and was dean of graduate studies. For five years, Edney served as president of the Southwestern Athletic Conference.

Dr. Edney is a graduate of Tougaloo College. He holds a master’s degree in biology from Antioch College and a Ph.D. in conservation from Michigan State University.


The Controversy Over the Naming of the Basketball Arena at Historically Black Alabama State University Rages On

In 1992, Alabama State University, the historically black educational institution in Montgomery, opened the Joe L. Reed Acadome. The 7,600-seat facility is the home to the university’s basketball teams and it hosts many other campus events. The arena was named after Joe L. Reed, the former chair of the university’s board of trustees and current head of the Alabama Democratic Conference.

In 2008 the board of trustees voted to remove Reed’s name from the building after Reed filed a lawsuit challenging the board’s right to issue a severance package to the university’s outgoing president. Reed’s supporters in the Alabama legislature unsuccessfully tried to force the university to restore his name to the building.

Now the board of trustees has renamed the building the Dunn-Oliver Acadome in honor of Charles Johnson Dunn and James V. Oliver, two men, now deceased, who were basketball coaches at the university. But the Alabama legislature responded by passing a nonbinding resolution calling for the university to reinstate Reed’s name to the building. But at a trustee’s meeting last Friday, the issue was not put on the table.


Will Blacks Get a Fair Share of the Proceeds From the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery?

Recently the state of Arkansas began a new state lottery program. The purpose of the program is to provide funds for college scholarships for Arkansas residents. While scholarship amounts will depend on how much money is collected, students at four-year institutions may receive up to $6,000 annually. Students at community colleges could receive as much as $3,000 each year.

Data from other states shows that blacks and other minorities are more likely than whites to buy lottery tickets and that blacks account for a disproportionate share of all lottery ticket sales. But the scholarship awards from the new Arkansas lottery have qualifications that may have the effect of excluding blacks. One of the eligibility requirements is for students to have a score of 19 on the ACT college admission examination. But the average score for black students in Arkansas on the ACT test is 16.7. Therefore, a large majority of college-bound blacks in Arkansas will not be eligible for the lottery scholarships. In contrast, the average score for whites on the ACT test is 21. So a large majority of white students in Arkansas will be eligible for lottery scholarships.


Morgan State University Wards Off Competing Doctoral Program

The Maryland Higher Education Commission has refused to hear an appeal of its decision to prohibit the University of Maryland from offering an online doctoral program to in-state residents. The program for community college administrators will still be offered to students who reside outside Maryland.

Morgan State University, the historically black educational institution in Baltimore, claims that the University of Maryland program was duplicative and competitive with Morgan State’s doctoral program. Morgan State argued that the University of Maryland program could not be permitted because, under the state’s agreement with the federal government to end racial segregation in higher education, such competitive programs are not allowed.


In Memoriam

Louis Rudolph Harlan (1922-2010)

Louis R. Harlan, the white southern historian who was a professor of history at the University of Maryland for more than a quarter-century, has died at a nursing home in Lexington, Virginia. He was 87 years old and suffered from Crohn’s disease.

Professor Harlan was best known for his two-volume biography of Booker T. Washington. The first volume, published in 1972, won the Bancroft Prize for the best book in American history. The second volume, which was released in 1983 and covered Washington’s years at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, also won the Bancroft Prize as well as the Pulitzer Prize. Dr. Harlan was also the editor of the 14-volume Booker T. Washington Papers, published between 1972 and 1988.

Harlan was born in West Point, Mississippi, but spent most of his youth in Decatur, Georgia. In 1943 he graduated from Emory University where he was a member of the swimming team. After serving as a naval officer during World War II, Harlan earned a master’s degree in history at Vanderbilt University. As a graduate student he met John Hope Franklin, who was then teaching at Howard University. Dr. Franklin urged Harlan to study the history of race relations in the South. Harlan later earned a Ph.D. in history at Johns Hopkins University where his adviser was the eminent southern historian C. Vann Woodward.

Harlan taught at East Texas State College in Commerce and the University of Cincinnati before joining the University of Maryland faculty in 1965. In 1985 he was elevated to the position of distinguished university professor, the highest faculty rank at the University of Maryland.

Dr. Harlan retired from teaching in 1992.

Eddie V. Easley (1928-2010)

Eddie Easley, longtime professor at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, died last month at the medical center at Wake Forest University after a 15-year battle with cancer. Easley, who was the first African American hired to a tenure-track faculty position at Drake, was 81 years old.

A native of Lynchburg, Virginia, Professor Easley earned a bachelor’s degree at Virginia Union University in Richmond. He held a master’s and Ph.D. in economics from Iowa State University.

Dr. Easley joined the Drake faculty in 1957. He served as chair of the marketing department from 1966 to 1984. After 26 years at Drake, Easley joined the faculty at the Calloway School of Business and Accountancy at Wake Forest University. He retired from teaching full-time in 1999.


Grants and Gifts

Hampton University, the historically black educational institution in Virginia, received a $565,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The grant will be used to fund the purchase of modeling and simulation equipment at the Hampton University Proton Therapy Institute. The new devices will be used to determine treatment for cancer patients when the institute opens this coming summer.



Copyright © 2010. The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education. All rights reserved.