Will the New Admissions Procedures at the University of California Lead to an Increase in Black Enrollments?

The board of regents at the University of California has made major changes in admissions procedures. While the new plan is designed to place less emphasis on test scores, it is unclear whether the changes will improve the admission prospects of black students.

Under the new procedures, students will no longer be required to submit scores from two SAT II subject tests in order to be considered for admission. Because black students on average score at least 15 percent lower than white students on these tests, the change is seen as welcome in efforts to achieve greater racial diversity on the University of California campuses.

At the current time, to automatically qualify for admission to one of the nine undergraduate campuses in the system, students must finish with a grade point average in the top 4 percent of their high school class or must have grades and test scores that place them in the top 12.5 percent of all students statewide.

The new system will guarantee places to only the top 9 percent of all students statewide. But other students whose academic records fall just short of the requirements, but who have other admirable qualifications, will be considered.

One analysis conducted by the university system showed that under the new procedures the number of blacks and Latinos admitted would remain the same or increase only slightly. The number of Asian students would drop significantly, and the number of white students would increase substantially.


Postal Service Continues Its Long Tradition of Honoring Black Educators

Since 1978 the United States Postal Service has honored an African-American historical figure by placing his or her image on a stamp. So far the Black Heritage stamp collection has honored 32 individuals and many of them have been educators. Past honorees have included W.E.B. Du Bois, Percy Julian, Carter G. Woodson, and Ernest Just.

This year’s honoree is Anna Julia Cooper. Cooper lived for 105 years. She was one of only a handful of African Americans who survived slavery, emancipation, as well as the civil rights movement of the 1960s. She earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Oberlin College. In 1925, at the age of 67, Cooper earned a Ph.D. at the Sorbonne.

During her long career in education, Cooper served as principal at what later became Dunbar High School in Washington, D.C. She also taught at Wilberforce University in Ohio and Lincoln University in Missouri. For a brief time Cooper served as president of the now defunct Frelinghuysen University in Washington, D.C.


Only One African American Among the 37 Gates Cambridge Scholars

In 2000 the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation gave $210 million to establish an endowment fund to enable students from outside the United Kingdom to study at Cambridge University. Students with superb academic credentials, leadership abilities, and a record of community service are considered for the scholarships.

This year 752 American students applied for a Gates Cambridge Scholarship. This list was narrowed to 101 individuals who were invited to St. John’s College and the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, for a series of interviews to determine who would receive the scholarship awards.

Thirty-seven American students were selected as Gates Cambridge Scholars. Only one of the 37 winners is an African American.

Cameron Taylor of Modesto, California, will be studying for a master’s degree in linguistics at Cambridge University this fall. He graduated from the University of California at Santa Cruz with a double major in linguistics and Italian studies. He then spent a year at the University of Bologna studying medieval Italian literature.

Taylor plans to seek a Ph.D. in linguistics and to teach at the college level.


Tougher Admissions Requirements May Actually Boost Racial Diversity at the University of Oregon

Blacks are only 2 percent of the student body at the flagship campus of the University of Oregon at Eugene. Now a plan to raise admissions standards may make it more difficult for black students to gain entrance to the university. Beginning with the 2010-11 academic year, students will need a 3.4 grade point average in high school to win automatic admission to the Eugene campus. At the present time, a 3.25 GPA suffices.

But university officials believe that the new admission standard will actually increase racial diversity. At the present time, 70 percent of the entering class is made up of students who qualify automatically. Under the new tougher standards, automatic admissions may drop to about 50 percent. This would enable admissions officials to fill more spaces with students who do not meet the automatic admission threshold but who have other outstanding attributes that will add to the university community. Admissions officers state that under the new program they will be better able to take into account factors such as race, socioeconomic background, geographic diversity, leadership ability, and academic potential.

Black Enrollments Inch Up at the University of Texas

The University of Texas at Austin reports a slight increase in black enrollments this semester, despite the fact there was a drop in overall enrollments at the flagship campus. There are 2,093 black students on campus this semester. They make up 4.4 percent of the student body. Last spring, blacks were 4.2 percent of all enrollments.

Blacks make up more than 11 percent of the college-age population in Texas.


Black Student Association Founded at North Idaho College

In the past Coeur D’Alene, Idaho, has been a center of white supremacist activity. The hate group Aryan Nations had a compound outside the city and the group held an annual parade through the downtown of Coeur D’Alene each year.

But since the closing of the Aryan Nations compound, the city has worked hard to change its image. Now, 40 years after black student unions were formed on campuses throughout the United States, the Black Student Association has been established on the campus of North Idaho College in Coeur D’Alene. The 10-member association hopes to bring more African-American culture to the city. Its first event — a performance by an African dance troupe from Kenya and Tanzania — was held during Black History Month.


26.6%  Percentage of all installment debt held by nonwhite families that had debt in 2004 that was related to student loans.

36.2% Percentage of all installment debt held by nonwhite families that had debt in 2007 that was related to student loans.

source: Federal Reserve Board,
Survey of Consumer Finances, February 2009


In Memoriam

Giles R. Wright Jr. (1935-2008)

Giles R. Wright Jr., a prominent African-American historian, died at a hospital in Mount Holly, New Jersey, after suffering a stroke. He was 73 years old.

For more than 30 years, Wright was director of the Afro-American History Program at the New Jersey Historical Commission. He was an expert on the Underground Railroad in New Jersey. He also taught labor studies and African-American history at Rutgers University.

Wright was a graduate of Georgetown University and held a master’s degree in African history from Howard University.


Honors and Awards

• Lois Harrison Jones, chair of the department of educational administration and policy at the Howard University School of Education, received the 2009 Dr. Effie H. Jones Humanitarian Award from the American Association of School Administrators.

• Dorothy Johnson, a former assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, and her husband Herman Johnson, a Tuskegee Airman who was a state legislator and chair of the local NAACP, will have a building named in their honor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. The couple, who died within five months of each other in 2004, had established a scholarship fund for black students at the university. To date the fund has provided more than $500,000 in scholarships to 170 black students.

The Herman and Dorothy Johnson Hall, a dormitory, is the first building on the university campus named after African Americans.

• Percy A. Pierre, vice president and professor emeritus of electrical and computer engineering at Michigan State University, received the Mentor Award for Lifetime Achievement from the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Pierre holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Notre Dame. In 1967 he earned a Ph.D. in electrical engineering from Johns Hopkins University.



• Tuskegee University and Auburn University will share in a $600,000 grant from the National Science Foundation for a program to strengthen mathematics education in Alabama public schools.

The University of Virginia received a five-year, $2.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education for a program that will seek to boost black and minority  student success in the Advanced Placement program.

CUNY Attracting More High-Achieving Students While Also Increasing Racial Diversity

The City University of New York enrolls more African Americans than any other institution of higher education in the United States. The university once was open to any student who earned a high school diploma at a public high school in the city. Now admission to CUNY’s four-year colleges is competitive and the academic credentials of admitted students are on the rise.

This academic year there are 505 first-year students enrolled at CUNY four-year colleges who graduated from New York City’s five prestigious magnet high schools. This is a 27 percent increase from 1999. The number of freshmen who scored at least 1200 on their combined math and reading SAT is up 168 percent during the period. And the number of first-year students who have achieved a grade point average of 85 or above on a scale of 0 to 100 has more than doubled.

While the increase in academic quality of the student body has been astounding, CUNY has been able to also increase racial diversity. The number of black freshmen has increased more than 30 percent in the 1999 to 2008 period.


“I am committed, as well as my husband, to ensuring that kids around this country, regardless of their race, their income, their status, the property values in their neighborhoods, get access to an outstanding education.”

Michelle Obama, speaking at the Department of Education


Williams College Cancels Classes to Hold Forums on Diversity

Williams College in western Massachusetts is among the highest-rated liberal arts institutions in the nation. Despite its rural location, Williams College is also among the leaders in racial diversity among the nation’s top liberal arts colleges.

But the college is not resting in its effort to make Williams a welcoming place for all students. On a recent Thursday the college canceled all classes to hold what was called “Claiming Williams Day.” That day there were five major presentations and 18 community forums including panels on race, gender, and sexual orientation. Although attendance was not mandatory, between 50 and 100 students attended each of the forums.


The Higher Education of a Black Man Who Seeks the Governorship of Alabama

Nearly a half-century ago, governor of Alabama George Corley Wallace took office with the words, “Segregation today. Segregation tomorrow. Segregation forever!” A few months later he unsuccessfully tried to prevent the racial integration of the University of Alabama. Faced with a federal court order, Wallace had no choice but to step aside and permit black students to register at the university.

Times have changed. Today blacks make up 11 percent of the student body at the University of Alabama. And now a black man has announced he will seek the office held by George Wallace.

Four-term congressman Artur Davis has announced his candidacy for governor of Alabama. Davis is a graduate of Harvard University and, like President Obama, he is a graduate of Harvard Law School. Prior to his election to Congress, Davis was a federal prosecutor.

Davis will be a formidable candidate in the Democratic primary because black voters typically make up more than half of all Democratic primary voters in Alabama. But Davis will face an uphill climb in the general election. John McCain won more than 60 percent of the total vote in the 2008 presidential election in Alabama. Among white voters, 88 percent voted for McCain.


Operation MAST Runs Aground

For the past nine summers Ben Cuker, a professor of marine and environmental sciences at historically black Hampton University in Virginia, has taken a group of minority students on a four-week tour of the Chesapeake Bay on a 53-foot sailing ship. The Multicultural Students at Sea Together (MAST) program teaches students how to sail and about various aspects of marine and environmental science.

But this summer may be the last voyage. A grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has expired and Professor Cuker has been unable to secure other funding. The program’s demise will be a severe blow. MAST has been an important feeder program for black and minority students into graduate programs in environmental science, a field that has a very low percentage of minority students.


The Rejuvenation of the College of Education at Fort Valley State University

In 2005 the Georgia Professional Standards Commission placed the education department at Fort Valley State University on probation for not meeting minimum state requirements for training teachers for the state’s public school system.

The historically black educational institution quickly acted to right the ship. Judy L. Carter of Benedict College was hired as the new dean. She painstakingly worked to get one program at a time back in compliance with state standards.

There are now five education programs that have been reinstated. There are more than 200 students enrolled in the College of Education and Dean Carter says the number could double over the next several years. New master’s degree programs in early childhood education and special education, as well as a master’s of arts in teaching, are awaiting approval.


Congress Recognizes an Important Milestone for Blacks in Computer Science

Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas authored a joint resolution of Congress which recognizes that African Americans now earn more than 12 percent of all computer science degrees issued by U.S. colleges and universities. This is near parity with the percentage of blacks in the U.S. population. The legislation reads that “the Congress recognizes the achievement of parity among African Americans in degrees conferred in computer science and celebrates this victory.”

The resolution also honors the contributions of Clarence “Skip” Ellis, the first African American to earn a Ph.D. in computer science. A 1964 graduate of Beloit College, Ellis earned his doctorate from the University of Illinois in 1969. Dr. Ellis is now professor of computer science at the University of Colorado.


Professor Condoleezza Rice Signs Major Book Deal

Condoleezza Rice, the former secretary of state and national security adviser to the president, has returned to her tenured position at Stanford University. There she is a professor of political science and the Thomas and Barbara Stephenson Senior Fellow on Public Policy at the Hoover Institution.

It was announced this past week that Professor Rice signed a three-book deal with Crown Publishers that will pay her at least $2.5 million. The first book will be a memoir of her years in the Bush administration and will touch on issues of American foreign policy in the post-9/11 era. Her second book will be about her parents, who were both educators, and her childhood growing up in the Jim Crow South. The third book will be a version of the second book with children as its target audience.


• William E. Hudson Jr. was appointed director of retention in the Office of Academic Affairs at Florida A&M University. He was the associate director of the Center for Academic Retention and Enhancement at Florida State University.

Dr. Hudson earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Florida A&M University. He holds a Ph.D. in rehabilitation counseling from Florida State University.

• Melissa Jackson was named general counsel at North Carolina Central University in Durham. She was general counsel at the University of Wisconsin at Green Bay.

Jackson is a graduate of Syracuse University. She holds a master’s degree from the State University of New York at Binghamton and a law degree from the University of Wisconsin.

• Barbara L.J. Griffin was promoted to associate provost at Howard University in Washington, D.C. She was the associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

Dr. Griffin holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Morgan State University. She earned a Ph.D. in English and American literature from the University of Maryland.

• Gretchen Long was promoted to associate professor of history and granted tenure at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts.

A graduate of Wesleyan University, Professor Long holds a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago.

• Charles J. Gibbs was named interim vice provost for student affairs at Howard University. He has been serving as dean of residence life at the university.

Gibbs holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Howard University. He is currently studying for his doctorate at the Howard University School of Education.

• George R. Johnson Jr. was named dean of the Elon University School of Law. He has been serving as interim dean since last summer. He has been a faculty member at the law school since its founding in 2006. Previously he was a full professor at the Howard University law school and also served as president of LeMoyne-Owen College in Memphis.

• Franzetta Fitz was promoted to director of instructional technology at Florida A&M University. Fitz has been an administrator at the university since 1992.

She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Florida A&M University.

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