Black Progress in Professional Degree Attainments

In the 2004-05 academic year, blacks earned 5,987 professional degrees in fields such as law, medicine, dentistry, and veterinary science. Blacks were awarded 6.9 percent of all professional degrees given out in the United States that year. The number of blacks earning professional degrees in 2005 increased 6.2 percent from the previous year.

Since 1985 the number of blacks earning professional degrees has nearly doubled. But in recent years the number of blacks earning professional degrees has increased at a slower rate. There was a far more rapid pace of improvement in the early 1990s.

As in most areas of higher education, black women hold a large lead in professional degree attainments. In the 2004-05 academic year black women were awarded 3,846 professional degrees compared to 2,141 for black men. Thus, black women accounted for 64.2 percent of all professional degrees awarded to African Americans.


“We want it to be a social justice organization; he wanted it to be more of a social service organization. Our mission is to fight racial discrimination and provide social justice. Social service organizations deal with theeffects of racial discrimination. We deal withthe beast itself.”

Julian Bond, chair of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, commenting on the resignation of Bruce S. Gordon as president of the nation’s oldest civil rights organization


Short-Term Increase in White Enrollments at Black Colleges, But the Long-Term Trend Is Down

In recent years a large number of state-operated historically black colleges and universities have boosted their enrollments of white students. In fact, according to JBHE research, over the 2000-2005 period the percentage of white students has increased at 25 of the 30 state-operated HBCUs in our survey. Before the reader jumps to the conclusion that a remarkable new trend in racial integration is occurring, we note that at two thirds of these institutions the white percentage of the student body has actually decreased since 1990.

For example, Tennessee State University showed an increase in white enrollments from 10.9 percent in 2000 to 16.5 percent in 2005. But in both 1980 and 1990 the white percentage of total enrollments at Tennessee State was higher than was the case in 2005. At Lincoln University in Missouri, whites now make up more than one half of all enrollments. There has been a 4 percentage point increase in white enrollments since 2000. But in 1990 whites were more than 60 percent of the student body at Lincoln University.

To this day many of the black universities in our survey have very few whites. In fact, 11 of the 30 state-operated black colleges and universities have white enrollments below 3 percent. A majority of the universities have white enrollments below 4 percent.


Rice University Tries to Get the Jump on Its Peer Institutions by Holding an Early Recruitment Weekend for Accepted Minority Students

Many selective colleges and universities hold minority recruitment weekends in April. Most of these schools send out acceptance letters around the first of April. They then invite accepted black students to campus in an effort to persuade them to enroll.

Rice University doesn’t wait. It sent out acceptance letters to many minority students in early February. It then holds its Visions Weekend for accepted minority students later in the month. This year more than 160 black and other minority students came to Houston to attend class and get a taste for campus life. Rice pays transportation costs for students from out of town who want to attend Visions Weekend. Rice reports that about one half of all students who attend Visions Weekend eventually decide to enroll at Rice.


A Nineteenth-Century Black Student at the University of Georgia

In 1963 Hamilton Holmes and Charlayne Hunter became the first African Americans to earn bachelor’s degrees at the University of Georgia. But now there is an effort to award a posthumous bachelor’s degree to Samuel F. Harris, the grandson of a slave. A musical prodigy, in the late 1800s Harris played organ at many churches in the Athens area. He befriended several faculty members at the University of Georgia. In order that he could sit in on classes at the university, the faculty arranged to have Harris hired to operate a projector during lectures.

Harris excelled and began to tutor white students who were enrolled in the classes that he sat in on. Over the years Harris audited enough classes to have earned him a degree.

A librarian at the university recently found a document that included the minutes of a 1935 meeting of the Athens Board of Education. It commended Harris for the work he had done in public education. The document included a passage that said Harris had taken “private teaching on the part of the members of the faculty of the University of Georgia” and was given a degree by Morris Brown College “in recognition of the college work he had done.”

A group of students is now petitioning the university to award Harris the degree they believe he rightfully deserves.


University of Illinois Looks to Boost Black Student Retention Rates

Blacks make up 6.6 percent of the 31,000-member undergraduate student body at the University of Illinois. But the black student graduation rate of 65 percent is 21 percentage points below the rate for white students.

The University of Illinois has begun a new program designed to boost retention and graduation rates among African-American freshmen. The program, entitled 100 Strong, attempts to get black students more involved with activities on campus. The program provides mentors to guide black students through the maze of extracurricular activities available on campus.


White State Senator in Washington Wants to Offer Need-Based Scholarship for Students Who Attend HBCUs

Ken Jacobsen, a Democratic state senator from Washington State, has authored legislation that will provide tuition scholarships for low-income students to attend historically black colleges and universities. The bill would provide need-based scholarships for up to 100 students of any race who were accepted at black colleges. The need-based grants would be comparable to the amount of money the students would expect to get from the state if they attended college in the state of Washington.

With blacks making up only 3 percent of the students at the main campus of the University of Washington, it may be extremely difficult to gain support from a majority of the state legislators for any effort to help black students go to college in other states.


African-American College Sophomores in Virginia Can Gain Early Admission to Medical School

In 2006 there were 10 blacks among the 104 graduates of the Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk. Despite the fact that blacks make up a larger share of the total graduates than is the case at most medical schools in this country, the administration at Eastern Virginia is not satisfied with the school’s level of racial diversity. Overall, blacks make up 6 percent of the enrollments at the school.

In an effort to increase black enrollments, an early admissions program has been established with five historically black colleges and universities in the state. Under the program, sophomores at these black colleges and universities can reserve a future slot at the medical school. The space will remain theirs so long as they continue to meet the academic standards at their undergraduate institutions. Sophomores at Norfolk State University, Hampton University, St. Paul’s College, Virginia State University, and Virginia Union University are eligible for the early admissions program.


New Scholarship Program for African Students at Amherst College

Amherst College Class of 1966 alumnus Arthur W. Koenig has donated $6 million to his alma mater to create the Koenig Scholarship Fund. The scholarship fund will be used to bring low-income students from Africa and Latin America to Amherst. Five Koenig Scholars will be named each year. In addition, the endowment will provide funds for Amherst College admissions officers to make recruitment trips to Africa and Latin America each year to interview prospective students.

Koenig, who spent most of his career in the steel industry, is now retired and lives in London.


Protests Hit Two Black College Campuses

At Clark Atlanta University, students marched on campus to propose a 5 percent hike in tuition. The increase was announced after 153 students were told they could not enroll next semester because they were behind on their tuition payments.

At Mississippi Valley State University in Itta Bena, the faculty senate agreed to a vote of no confidence in university president Lester C. Newman. Among the complaints against Dr. Newman, according to the resolution passed by the faculty senate, are a lack of professional courtesy, disregard to the academic calendar, removing department chairs without due process, and inconsistency in faculty pay.



Julius E. Coles, president of Africare, a nonprofit organization supporting more than 150 assistance projects in Africa, was presented with the James Madison Medal from Princeton University. The award is given each year to an alumnus who has advanced the cause of graduate education or achieved an outstanding record in public service. Coles qualifies for both criteria. Before coming to Africare in 2002, he was the director of the Andrew Young Center for International Affairs at Morehouse College. He previously served as director of the Ralph J. Bunche International Affairs Center at Howard University. Coles is a graduate of Morehouse College and received a master’s degree from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.

Sean T. Bennett, associate vice president of institutional diversity initiatives and pipeline program at Clarkson University in Potsdam, New York, was elected to the Alumni Hall of Distinction by the New York State Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities.


In Memoriam

Winthrop Donaldson Jordan (1931-2007)

Winthrop D. Jordan, professor emeritus of history and African-American studies at the University of Mississippi and a leading authority on slavery and racism, died last month from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease) at his home in Oxford, Mississippi. He was 75 years old.

Professor Jordan, a frequent contributor to JBHE, won the National Book Award for his 1968 work White Over Black: American Attitudes Toward the Negro, 1550-1812. He wrote several other influential books on slavery and race relations.

Professor Jordan was a graduate of Harvard University. He held a master’s degree from Clark University and a Ph.D. in history from Brown. He taught at Phillips Exeter Academy and the University of California at Berkeley before joining the faculty at Ole Miss in 1982.





Yale Completes Renovations of Black Cultural Center

The Afro-American Cultural Center at Yale University reopened seven months after it was closed as part of a five-year, $3 million restoration program. The building received a complete makeover of its heating and electric systems. The basement was converted to usable space, its security was upgraded, new bathrooms were installed, and a performance area was created in the main room of the facility.

Jonathan Scott Holloway, professor of history and African-American studies, told the Yale Daily News, “The renovation shows that the institution and alumni recognize the house as a valuable resource on campus.”


Gender Differences in the Racial Income Gap for College Graduates

Last week JBHE reported that in 2004 blacks with a four-year college degree had a median income that was 90 percent of the median income of similarly educated non-Hispanic whites.

But it must be noted that when we break down the figures by gender we find that the superior performance of black women is responsible for the progress that has been made. In 2004 black males with a bachelor’s degree had a median income of $40,329, which was only 79 percent of the $51,184 median income of similarly educated white males. Thus, a very large racial income gap persists for black men who nevertheless have beaten the odds and earned a college degree.

On the other hand, black women with a bachelor’s degree had a median income of $33,877, which was 111 percent of the $30,413 median income figure for non-Hispanic white women who held a college degree. It is clear then that the strong income performance of black college graduates is largely due to the earnings performance of black women while higher education has failed to produce similar income gains for black men in comparison to white men.


Advanced Placement Tests With the Largest Racial Scoring Gaps

Overall, in 2006 the mean score for whites on all Advanced Placement tests was 2.96. The mean score for blacks on all AP tests was 1.00 point lower at 1.96.

However, on some AP examinations the racial scoring gap between blacks and whites was significantly higher than the national average. The largest black-white scoring gap was on one of the two computer science tests. On that exam, the mean white score of 2.98 was 1.35 points higher than the mean black score of 1.63.

The black-white scoring gap was also at least 1.00 point (equivalent to a full letter grade in a corresponding college level course) on the tests for macroeconomics, human geography, English literature, comparative politics, biology, environmental science, physics, psychology, microeconomics, calculus, and statistics.



Ruth Simmons Wins High Marks From Brown University Students

A new poll of students conducted by the Brown Daily Herald found that a whopping 81 percent of Brown students approve of the job Ruth Simmons is doing as university president. Only 4 percent of the students disapproved of the way Simmons is handling her post.

The poll also found only lukewarm support for race-sensitive admissions. A bare majority of Brown University students said that an applicant’s race or ethnicity should be considered by the admissions committee to promote greater racial diversity on campus.

In contrast, according to the poll, only 23 percent of Brown students believe that children of Brown University graduates should be given an admissions preference.


Financial Woes Deepen at LeMoyne-Owen College

Robert Lipscomb, chair of the board of trustees of LeMoyne-Owen College, the historically black educational institution in Memphis, reports that the college needs to raise $2.9 million by the end of June or it may be forced to close.

The college has been in financial difficulty for several years and is currently on accreditation probation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

In addition to its cash flow problems, the college has $6 million in long-term debt.


Two Works on Slavery Among the Three Finalists for the George Washington Book Prize

Two books on the topic of American slavery are finalists for the 2007 George Washington Book Prize which will be given out this coming May by the C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience at Washington College in Chestertown, Maryland.

Among the three books competing for the prize are Francois Furstenberg’s In the Name of the Father: Washington’s Legacy, Slavery, and the Making of a Nation and Charles Rappleye’s Sons of Providence: The Brown Brothers, the Slave Trade, and the American Revolution.


40.1 years   Median age of the non-Hispanic white population of the United States in 2004.

31.4 years   Median age of the non-Hispanic black population of the United States in 2004.

source: U.S. Census Bureau



Vivian Barnette was appointed director of counseling at North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro. She was a staff psychologist and interim counseling director at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Barnette is a graduate of Western Carolina University. She holds a master’s degree in counseling from North Carolina A&T and a Ph.D. in counseling psychology from Western Michigan University.

Ozzie Harris II was appointed senior vice provost for diversity and community development at Emory University. He was the special assistant to the president for institutional diversity and equity at Dartmouth College.

A graduate of Dartmouth College, Harris earned a law degree at the Vermont Law School.

Richee-Lori Smith was named vice provost for development at the Newark campus of Rutgers University. She was the national director of workplace initiatives for the United Negro College Fund.

Smith is a graduate of Hampton University and holds an MBA and a law degree from Rutgers.

Lori Williams was named director of academic certification at the Eligibility Center of the National Collegiate Athletic Association. A graduate of Baylor University, Williams holds a law degree from Texas Tech University.

Ruth Witherspoon was promoted to interim dean of the College of Law at Florida A&M University. She was the associate dean for administration and student services. The search for a permanent dean will be put on hold until new the Florida A&M president, James H. Ammons, takes office this coming summer.

Kassie Freeman was named vice president for academic and student affairs for the Southern University system. She was the dean for academic achievement at Bowdoin College in Maine and previously served as dean of educational and psychological studies at Dillard University in New Orleans.

A graduate of Tuskegee University, Freeman holds a doctorate from Emory University.

Dorothy Reed was named assistant provost at Purdue University. She was the director of the Office of Supportive Services at Michigan State University.

A graduate of Tuskegee University, Reed holds a master’s degree in vocational education and counseling from Purdue and a doctorate in college and university administration from Michigan State University.

David Satcher, former surgeon general of the United States and current holder of the Pouissant-Satcher-Cosby Chair in Mental Health at the Morehouse School of Medicine, was named to the board of directors of the insurance giant, MetLife.

Carey Bailey, a graduate of the University of Tennessee, is the new head football coach at Howard University. He was the defensive line coach for the football team at the University of Minnesota.



Copyright © 2007. The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education. All rights reserved.