Study Finds That Tens of Thousands of Low-Income College Students Do Not Apply for Pell Grants

Dan Cohen-Vogel, assistant vice chancellor of the state university system in Florida, conducted a survey which found that thousands of college students from low-income families in the state passed up Pell Grant awards for which they were eligible. Blacks are 17 percent of all college students in Florida and they make up a disproportionate share of students eligible for Pell Grants.

The report found that 22,000 low-income students at Florida’s 11 public universities did not apply for Pell Grant awards although they were entitled to receive them. The survey did not include students at the state’s two-year community colleges or students at private, four-year colleges and universities. Therefore, the number of low-income students who did not bother to apply for Pell Grant awards is undoubtedly much higher.

Cohen-Vogel told the board of governors of the state university system that “there are students who are just not educated about the process.” He said that the 12-page financial aid application form discourages student participation and some students do not apply because they have the false impression that Pell Grants are loans. Cohen-Vogel proposes that a more extensive program be initiated in Florida high schools to educate students about their financial aid opportunities.


University of Notre Dame Offers Black Doctoral Students Help in Completing Their Dissertations

The University of Notre Dame’s Erskine A. Peters Dissertation Year Fellowship program offers African-American doctoral students an opportunity to complete their doctoral dissertations in an academic environment that is free from monetary concerns. The fellowship is aimed toward black students in the arts, humanities, or the social sciences. It encompasses a full academic year beginning in August and concluding in May. The fellowship includes a $25,000 stipend and a $2,000 research budget.

In addition to access to all university facilities, fellows are provided office space, use of a personal computer, an official academic home in the department of the fellow’s specialization, and access to a faculty mentor in the fellow’s discipline. Fellows also participate in professional development workshops focused on employment strategies and career development. Students selected for the program are expected to be in residence at the university and to devote most of their time to the completion of their doctoral dissertation.

Here are this year’s Peters Fellows:

Denise Challenger is a doctoral candidate in history at York University in Toronto. Her dissertation, “Constructing the Colonial Moral Order,” examines race and political power in Barbados in the nineteenth century.

Seth Markle is completing his Ph.D. in history at New York University. He is writing his dissertation with the working title, “We Are Not Tourists: The Black Power Movement and the Making of Socialist Tanzania, 1964 to 1974.”

Jessica Graham is a doctoral student in history at the University of Chicago. She is comparing race relations in Brazil with those in the United States. Her dissertation is titled, “Representations of Racial Democracy: State Cultural Policy, Race, and National Identity in the U.S. and Brazil, 1922 to 1945.”

Erskine Peters was a professor of English and African-American studies at Notre Dame. He died from pneumonia in 1998 at the age of 49.


College President Fired After Drunk-Driving Arrest

This past week, Darnell Cole was dismissed as president of Milwaukee Area Technical College. Earlier this month Dr. Cole had been arrested when he was found stopped on an Interstate highway at 1:40 a.m. with a blood alcohol level more than twice the legal limit.

Dr. Cole apologized for what he called a “serious error in judgment.” And students held demonstrations calling on the board of trustees not to fire the president. But the board voted 6 to 3 against retaining Cole. In a statement, the board said “operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol is not acceptable conduct.”

Some critics of the board’s decision questioned whether Cole would have been fired if he was white.



New Documentary Film on the Orangeburg Massacre

The documentary film Scarred Justice: The Orangeburg Massacre 1968, recently premiered on the campus of South Carolina State University. The one-hour documentary tells of student protests over racial segregation at a bowling alley in Orangeburg, South Carolina, and on the campus of what is now South Carolina State University. The protests culminated on the night of February 8, 1968, when three students were gunned down by state troopers.

The film will be shown on public television stations across the country later this year. It is also available for purchase on DVD at the website of California Newsreel.


In Memoriam

John B. Turner (1922-2009)

John B. Turner, a Tuskegee Airman and former dean of the School of Social Work at the University of North Carolina, died after complications from a fall. He was 86 years old.

Professor Turner joined the faculty at Chapel Hill in 1974. In 1981 he was named dean of the School of Social Work, the first African-American dean in the university’s history. He remained in that post until his retirement in 1992.

Turner was a native of Fort Valley, Georgia. After studying at Morehouse College, he joined the Army and was assigned for pilot training at Tuskegee Army Air Field in Alabama. Trained as a bomber pilot, Turner did not see combat action in World War II because only black fighter pilots were deployed overseas.

After the war, Turner earned his Ph.D. in social work at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. He served as dean of applied social sciences there and was the first African American to be elected a city commissioner in East Cleveland.

An endowed professorship and a building on the Chapel Hill campus are named in his honor.

Augustus Lindsay Palmer (1923-2009)

Augustus L. Palmer, who was a long-time administrator in higher education, died from prostate cancer at a hospice center in Washington, D.C. He was 85 years old.

Palmer was a native of Newport News, Virginia. He served as a Tuskegee Airman during World War II. After leaving the Army, Palmer earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting and economics at Hampton University. In 1956 he received an MBA from New York University.

Palmer then served as an administrator at Texas Southern University in Houston. In 1971 he took a position at Howard University in Washington, retiring in 1991 as associate vice president for health affairs.


Honors and Awards

• Wilhelmina Jakes and the late Carrie Patterson, two Florida A&M University students in 1956 who initiated a city-wide boycott in Tallahassee to protest racial segregation on city buses, had a street named in their honor. Jennings Street, where the two women lived while attending Florida A&M, was renamed Jakes & Patterson Street.

• Ulysses S. Washington, retired chair of the department of agriculture and natural resources at Delaware State University, was inducted into the George Washington Carver Public Service Hall of Fame during the annual Professional Agriculture Workers Conference at Tuskegee University.

• Julian Bond, professor of history at the University of Virginia, received the Humanitarian of the Year Award from the North Carolina chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Bond also serves as the national chair of the NAACP.

• Sylvia T. Bozeman, professor of mathematics and director of the Center for Scientific Applications of Mathematics at Spelman College in Atlanta, received the 2008 Mentor Award from the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Professor Bozeman is a graduate of Alabama A&M University. She holds a master’s degree from Vanderbilt University and a Ph.D. in mathematics from Emory University.

The eight black students who in 1959 racially integrated the University of Memphis were collectively given the Arthur S. Holman Lifetime Achievement Award from the university’s Black Student Association. The Memphis Eight, as they were called, were not permitted to live on campus, eat in the university’s cafeteria, or attend social or sporting events.

Today 35 percent of the university’s student body is black.



• The Lagrant Foundation is offering $100,000 in scholarships to minority students majoring in advertising, marketing, or public relations. Undergraduate students are eligible for $5,000 awards and graduate students can earn $10,000 scholarships.

• Grinnell College received a four-year, $500,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to establish a program to increase the number of underrepresented minorities who pursue college teaching careers. Students selected for the program will receive financial assistance, mentoring, and funding to attend conferences and seminars.

New Website Documents the History of Blacks at Penn State

Calvin H. Waller was born in Macon, Georgia. He came to Pennsylvania State University in 1899 to learn how to be a successful farmer. He earned his degree in 1905 as Penn State’s first black graduate. Penn State’s vaunted intercollegiate football program began in 1887. But no black player donned a Penn State uniform until 1945.

Today there are more than 4,600 African Americans enrolled at Pennsylvania State University campuses around the state. But at the flagship campus near State College blacks are only 4 percent of the student body. And this is in a state where African Americans make up about 10 percent of the college-age population. Race relations on the flagship campus often have been strained. (See “Blacks Are Unhappy in Happy Valley,” JBHE, Number 32, page 20.)

Now in an effort to educate the university community about the significant contributions made by African Americans at Penn State, Darryl Daisey of the Class of 1983 has researched and written Penn State University African-American Chronicles, 1899-2008. The report forms the cornerstone of a new website documenting the history of blacks at Penn State.

Daisey hopes the new website will inspire current African-American students, serve as a recruiting tool for prospective black students, and reinstill or reinforce a sense of pride among black alumni of the institution.


“The commemoration of Black History Month is a damaging form of apartheid, setting the contributions of black Americans aside as separate and unequal. It sends the wrong signal to all Americans, black, white, and brown.”

— An editorial in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution calling for an end to Black History Month, February 8, 2009


Huge Surge in Applications to Black Universities in New Orleans

It has been more than three years since Hurricane Katrina struck the city of New Orleans. But now there are signs that black higher education in the city is regaining the stature it held before the storm.

Nowhere is this more apparent than at Dillard University. After the hurricane some of the buildings on the Dillard campus had floodwaters eight feet high. Three dormitories on campus burned to the ground. Estimates of the total damage were placed at $400 million.

This past fall there were only 867 students on campus compared to about 2,100 before the hurricane. But the good news is that the university received 2,497 applications for freshman admissions this year, a 110 percent increase from a year ago.

At Xavier University there were 444 students in the freshman class the year after the storm. This year 778 first-year students enrolled. The university has received more than 2,500 applications for the class that will enter this fall. Total enrollments at Xavier this semester are about 3,100, about 75 percent of the level that existed before Hurricane Katrina.


Economic Stimulus Includes a Huge Increase in Funds for Pell Grants

The huge economic stimulus package enacted into law last week included nearly $7.2 billion in extra funds for the Pell Grant program for low-income college students. This is a huge 40 percent increase in funds allocated to the program for the current fiscal year.

California will receive an extra $755 million in Pell Grant allocations. Texas, New York, and Florida will all benefit from an additional $400 million or more in Pell Grant allocations. Every state except Alaska will get at least $10 million in additional money for Pell Grant awards.


Black Historian at the University of Texas Gains Landmark Status for a Town Founded by Her Great-Great-Grandfather

Juliet E.K. Walker is professor of history and the founder and director of the Center for Black Business History, Entrepreneurship, and Technology at the University of Texas at Austin. Over the past several decades Professor Walker’s extensive research has documented the history and location of New Philadelphia, Illinois, a town founded in 1836 by Frank McWorter, a former slave. The town was the first geographic place registered by an African American. McWorter was Professor Walker’s great-great-grandfather.

About 160 people lived in the town at one point. But when the railroad was placed on a route that bypassed New Philadelphia, the town slowly lost population and eventually became farmland. Professor Walker’s research located the site and several archeological digs have occurred there in recent years.

Now Professor Walker’s efforts have been rewarded with the designation of National Historic Landmark status for the New Philadelphia site. This is one of only 2,500 such designations in the United States.


New Center for Watershed Management Established at Alabama A&M University

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has designated Alabama A&M University as a Center of Excellence for Watershed Management. In order to meet the qualifications, the university had to demonstrate technical expertise in watershed management issues, involvement of faculty and students in watershed related research, and the ability to eventually become financially self-sustaining.

The new center will be under the direction of Teferi Tsegaye, chair of the department of natural resources and environmental sciences at Alabama A&M, the historically black educational institution in the city of Normal. Dr. Tsegaye holds a Ph.D. from the University of Maryland.


Johnnetta Cole Named Director of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African Art

Johnnetta Cole, the anthropologist who served as president at both Spelman College and Bennett College for Women, has been named director of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African Art.

Dr. Cole has a solid record as a fundraiser and she undoubtedly will be spending a great deal of her time in efforts to boost the museum’s financial strength.

The museum has 9,000 pieces in its collection. In 2008, 322,000 people visited the museum.Dr. Cole is a graduate of Oberlin College. She holds a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in anthropology from Northwestern University.


Blacks Are 9 Percent of Students Admitted Early at Williams College

Williams College, the highly rated liberal arts college in rural western Massachusetts, reports that it accepted 231 students in its early admissions cycle. Of the accepted students, 50, or 21.6 percent, were members of minority groups. There were 21 black students accepted under the binding early admissions program at Williams. They make up over 9 percent of all students accepted early.


Civil Rights Pioneer’s Papers Donated to University of Texas-Permian Basin

Viola Coleman, a physician from Midland, Texas, died in 2005. Her estate has donated her papers to the University of Texas at Permian Basin in Odessa. Dr. Coleman’s papers are historically significant. In the mid-1940s, Coleman, a graduate of Southern University, sought admission to the medical school at Louisiana State University. She was rejected because of her race. Thurgood Marshall, the lead counsel for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, took the case to federal court but was unsuccessful. Coleman later obtained her medical training at Meharry Medical College, the historically black school in Nashville.

Many of Coleman’s papers deal with her effort to gain admission to the LSU medical school. Some of the other papers are revealing in that they show the difficulty a young black woman faced in establishing a medical practice in the Jim Crow South.

A long-time civil rights activist, Dr. Coleman was instrumental in desegregating hospitals and the public school system in Midland, Texas. A high school in the city is now named in her honor.


12.1%  Percentage of all high school students who graduate on time who are black.

36.7%  Percentage of all students who drop out of high school in tenth grade who are black.

source: U.S. Department of Education



• William E. Moore, professor of chemistry at Southern University in Baton Rouge,was elected to a second term on the Chemistry Department's Industrial Advisory Committee for the College of Science at Purdue University.

A graduate of Southern University, in 1967 Dr. Moore was the first African American to earn a Ph.D. in chemistry from Purdue.

• Jamina Scippio-McFadden was appointed assistant professor of mass communications at Fort Valley State University in Georgia. A former television producer and reporter, she served as director of career services at Tallahassee Community College.

Professor Scippio-McFadden is a graduate of Bethune-Cookman College and holds a master’s degree from the University of Florida.

• Leo E. Rouse, dean of the Howard University College of Dentistry, was selected to serve on the Commission on Dental Accreditation, the accrediting body for all dental schools in the United States.

• Jendayi E. Frazer was named a distinguished public service professor at Carnegie Mellon University with a joint appointment in the department of social and decision sciences and the School of Public Policy and Management. She was the assistant secretary of state for African affairs in the Bush administration. She also served as U.S. ambassador to South Africa.

Professor Frazer holds a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree in international policy studies, and a Ph.D. in political science, all from Stanford University.

• John L. Jackson Jr., Richard Perry University Associate Professor in the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania, was chosen as one of the eight inaugural Penn Fellows, a leadership development program at the university.

• Derrick Robertson was named assistant director of admission at Williams College in Massachusetts. Robertson, a graduate of Southern University, was director of student outreach for the Department of Social Services in Opelousas, Louisiana.

Copyright © 2009. The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education. All rights reserved.