Study Finds That Graduates of Black Colleges Have Seen a Relative Decline in Average Wages Since the 1970s

In a paper prepared for the National Bureau of Economic Research, Roland G. Fryer, an assistant professor of economics at Harvard University who is black, and Michael Greenstone, a professor of economics at MIT, report some bad news for the nation’s historically black colleges and universities.

The economists’ research found that between the 1970s and 1990s there was a 20 percent decline in relative wages for graduates of black colleges compared to black graduates of predominantly white colleges and universities. The authors note that during this period when relative wages declined, the academic preparedness of students at the black colleges and universities — measured by standardized test scores and high school grade point averages — actually increased.

The authors say that the data on declining earnings do not necessarily reflect poorly on the black colleges. Rather, they state the differences could be the result of “improvements in traditionally white institutions’ effectiveness at educating blacks.”

The study also found that there were significant declines between the 1970s and 1990s in the percentage of students at black colleges who said they would choose the same college again. There were also declines in the percentages of students at black colleges who believed that they were being well prepared for working in a diverse society after graduation.


“Those institutions that educate disproportionate numbers of vulnerable populations should receive disproportionate numbers of public dollars.”

Lezli Baskerville, president of the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education, calling for Congress to investigate whether the Bush administration is monitoring states' agreements to provide equal funding and support to their historically black colleges and universities.


Daniel Bernstine Named CEO of the Law School Admission Council

Last month JBHE reported that Daniel Bernstine, president of Portland State University in Oregon, was one of three finalists for the presidency of West Virginia University. But Bernstine withdrew his name from consideration prior to the board of trustees vote on the three candidates.

But soon after the announcement that he withdrew his name from consideration, Bernstine was named president of the Law School Admission Council, the Newtown, Pennsylvania-based organization that administers the Law School Admission Test.

Over the years JBHE has been highly critical of the LSAT, which increasingly has acted as the gatekeeper for admissions to the nation’s top law schools. The average black student’s score on the LSAT is below the median score of all entering students at all predominantly white law schools in the nation. Despite the importance of the LSAT to law school admissions officers, the Law School Admission Council has never authorized an independent study to determine if the test has any value in predicting who will be an effective attorney.

Bernstine has been president of Portland State University since 1997. During his tenure, enrollment at the university has increased from 14,000 to 25,000 students.

Bernstine is a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley. He holds law degrees from Northwestern University and the University of Wisconsin. Before coming to Portland State, he was dean of the law school at the University of Wisconsin.

When Bernstine takes the leadership reins on July 1, it will be interesting to see what, if any, changes are made so that African Americans can have greater opportunities to pursue a legal education.


Virginia State Team Wins Mechanical Engineering Competition

Students from Virginia State University, the historically black educational institution in Ettrick, recently won a regional competition sponsored by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. In taking first place in the competition, the Virginia State students bested teams from the University of Virginia, Virginia Tech, and several other universities.

The teams were assigned the task of creating a device to clean polluted water without any nonhuman power source. The students were given only one hour to complete the task. The Virginia State team devised a system where one student rode a bicycle to power a generator which produced electricity. The electricity generated was used to power a heating element which boiled the water, turning it into steam. The steam was collected and condensed in a flask leaving the impurities in the original container.


Four Black Students Awarded Truman Scholarships

This year the federally funded Truman Scholarship program gave out awards to 65 college juniors who are planning graduate study in law, public administration, education, environmental studies, international relations, or public health.

Each scholarship provides $3,000 for the student’s senior year at his or her undergraduate college or university and $27,000 for two or three years of graduate study. Four of this year’s 65 Truman Scholars are black. They are:

DeCarol A. Davis, an electrical engineering major at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. She plans to go to graduate school to earn a master’s degree in electrical engineering.

Kenneth Ike is a junior at Baylor University studying a pre-med curriculum. He plans to go to medical school and also to get a degree in public health.

Ronald J. Towns, a native of Detroit, is a junior at Columbia University in New York City. He plans to go to law school and also to pursue a master’s degree in education.

Tiffany L.T. Shumate is a psychology major at Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania. She hopes to pursue a doctorate in education.


Scientist Is the First Black Student at Yale to Win a Ph.D. in Neurobiology

This spring Paulette McRae became the first African American to earn a Ph.D. in neurobiology from Yale University. McRae, a native of Montclair, New Jersey, is a 2002 graduate of Rutgers University. McRae originally had planned to go to medical school. But at Rutgers she was struck by the lack of African Americans teaching at the college level. She had only two black professors at Rutgers and both were in African-American studies courses. This led McRae to change her plans and pursue a career in the academic world.

McRae has accepted a postdoctoral position at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia where she will conduct research on epilepsy.


Centenarian Oliver W. Hill Is the First Winner of an Award Established in His Name at the University of Richmond School of Law

Oliver W. Hill, who practiced law in Richmond, Virginia, for more than 60 years and was a member of the legal team that ended racial segregation in the nation’s schools, colleges, and universities, recently celebrated his 100th birthday. To mark the occasion, Hill was presented with the inaugural Oliver W. Hill Social Justice Award which has been established by the law school at the University of Richmond.

Hill is a graduate of Howard University. In 1933 he graduated second in his class from the Howard University School of Law. Thurgood Marshall was the class valedictorian. Hill was the lead attorney for the plaintiffs in a Virginia litigation which was one of five cases that were joined together under the title Brown v. Board of Education.


Blacks Make Up 11 Percent of All Students Admitted to Penn

The University of Pennsylvania accepted 407 black students this spring. They made up more than 11 percent of all students accepted for admission. In 2006 blacks were also 11 percent of all students admitted to the university. Last fall 210 black students enrolled at Penn. They made up 8.8 percent of the entering class.


In Memoriam

Frederick Payne Watts (1904-2007)

Frederick Payne Watts, long-time Howard University faculty member and the first African American to earn a doctorate at the University of Pennsylvania, died last month from congestive heart failure. He was 103 years old.

Watts was a native of Staunton, Virginia, and graduated from Washington’s elite Dunbar High School in 1922. He enrolled at Howard University, planning to pursue a career in ophthalmology but changed his major to psychology. After earning a master’s degree in psychology at Howard, he taught for one year at Kittrell College in North Carolina. In 1928 he joined the Howard faculty and remained there for the rest of his career except for when he served in the military. When Watts earned his Ph.D. in 1941 at Penn, he was only the fourth African American in the entire nation to have been awarded a doctorate in psychology. Watts was the founder of the Howard University Counseling Service. He retired from Howard in 1970.

Kenneth Gray (1952-2007)

Kenneth Gray, a professor of business and industry at Florida A&M University, died while leading a rock-climbing expedition in Tennessee. Professor Gray apparently suffered a heart attack and was found on top of a cliff by other climbers. He was 55 years old.

Gray grew up in Philadelphia and was a graduate of New York University, where he majored in civil engineering. He earned a master’s degree and an MBA from the University of Chicago and a Ph.D. in administration and management from Walden University.

Frederick Douglass Hall Jr. (1937-2007)

Frederick Douglass Hall Jr., who was a professor of theater at Spelman College in Atlanta, died last month from complications of multiple sclerosis. He was 70 years old.

A native of New Orleans, Professor Hall was the son of African-American composer Frederick Douglass Hall Sr. Professor Hall held a master of fine arts degree from Boston University and a Ph.D. from Columbia University.

At Spelman, Hall directed more than 30 student productions over a 10-year period. While at Spelman, he wrote theater reviews for the Atlanta Daily World.

Robert J. Cummings  (1940-2007)

Robert J. Cummings, who taught African studies at Howard University for 31 years, has died from complications of cancer. He was 67 years old.

Professor Cummings was recognized as one of the world’s leading experts on African economic development. He was the first African American to serve as president of the 30,000-member African Studies Association.

Cummings was a graduate of Florida A&M University where he majored in European history. After college he taught high school history in Florida before pursuing a master’s degree at North Carolina Central University. He later taught at Winston-Salem State University and the University of Nairobi. In 1975 Cummings earned his Ph.D. in African economic history at UCLA. He then joined the Howard University faculty and until recently chaired the university’s African studies department.



Cheyney University of Pennsylvania, the historically black educational institution outside of Philadelphia, received a $350,000 grant from City Capital Corporation. The grant will be used to establish an entrepreneurial institute on the Cheyney campus for high school and college students interested in starting their own business.


Initiatives Which Would Ban Affirmative Action in Higher Education Likely to Appear on Ballots in Four States in 2008

Opponents of affirmative action in higher education are targeting the states of Colorado, Arizona, Missouri, and Oklahoma for ballot initiatives in 2008.

The so-called Colorado Civil Rights Initiative reads simply, “The state shall not discriminate against or grant preferential treatment to any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting.”

Leading the effort in Colorado is Valery Pech Orr, who was a co-plaintiff in the 1995 Adarand case in which the Supreme Court significantly curtailed minority set-aside programs in government contracting awards.

Ward Connerly, who successfully led the fight to enact affirmative action bans in California, Washington, and Michigan, is heading up similar efforts in Arizona, Missouri, and Oklahoma in 2008. Connerly may add other states as well in an effort to create what he calls a “Super Tuesday for Equal Rights” in November 2008.


Comparing Numbers of Black Faculty at Flagship State Universities to the Black Population of Particular States

In last week’s issue, JBHE reported that the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill leads all flagship state universities in the total number of black faculty as well as the percentage of all faculty who are black. But when one considers the fact that more than 21 percent of the population of the state of North Carolina is black, an African-American faculty of 5.9 percent is not an extraordinary accomplishment.

Therefore, a far more useful ranking of the flagship state universities is to compare their percentage of black faculty to the percentage of blacks in the population, and thus the work force of a given state.

Under this ranking system, the University of North Carolina is near the bottom of the list, not the top. There are five state flagship universities at which the percentage of black faculty is greater than the percentage of the black population in the state. All of these five states have small black populations. They are Vermont, Montana, North Dakota, Wyoming, and Utah. At the University of Idaho, blacks make up 1 percent of the faculty, the exact percentage of blacks in the state’s population.

Among the states with a significant black population of greater than 5 percent, the University of Massachusetts ranks the highest when we compare the level of black faculty to the black population of the state. Blacks make up 4.5 percent of the faculty at UMass whereas blacks are 6.9 percent of the state’s population.

Among the southern and border states, Kentucky has the most favorable ratio of black faculty at its state flagship university to the black population of the state. Louisiana State University ranks at the bottom among the southern states. In a state where the black population exceeds 33 percent of the total, only 3.4 percent of the faculty at LSU is black.


Crisis at Predominantly Black Nursing School in Mississippi

Over the past decade, nearly 100 percent of the students graduating from the nursing program at Alcorn State University, the historically black educational institution in Mississippi, have passed the national nursing licensure examination.

But the latest results for this year’s students show that only 21 of 91 students in the nursing program passed the test. Eleven of the 37 students in the nursing bachelor’s degree program passed the licensure examination. In the two-year associate’s degree program in nursing, only 10 of the 54 students passed the test.

The students who failed the licensure examination will have two additional opportunities to achieve passing grades.

Officials at the nursing school note that the school has lost 14 faculty members over the past two years and they believe this has resulted in the severe drop in licensure examination passage rates. The Mississippi legislature has enacted $12,000 raises for nursing faculty in the hope of retaining current faculty and attracting new nursing professionals to the school.


New Information on the First Black Graduate of the University of Colorado

For many years, officials at the University of Colorado believed that in 1924 Ruth Cave Flowers became the first African American to graduate from the university. But it now appears that the first African American to graduate from the university was Lucile Berkeley Buchanan, who earned a bachelor’s degree in German in 1918.

Polly McLean, an African American who is an associate professor at the School of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Colorado, has painstakingly researched historical documents, contacted acquaintances, and traveled to places where Lucile  and her family lived and worked.

Lucile was born in 1884 in Virginia. Her father was a slave who escaped to freedom and served in the 30th U.S. Colored Infantry during the Civil War. Her mother’s father was Edmund Berkeley, a Confederate colonel who had impregnated a slave. Berkeley was a wealthy man who owned a 1,000-acre plantation.

Lucile’s parents followed the course of the pioneers and set out from Virginia for Colorado in 1881 or 1882. The couple bought five lots of land and built a large home in a predominantly white neighborhood of Denver. It is not known how the couple amassed enough money for the land and home. McLean speculates that Lucile’s white grandfather may have given his daughter some money before she left Virginia.

Lucile’s father became a prominent member of the community. He defeated a white man in an election for street commissioner and served in the post for several years.

After graduating from the University of Colorado in 1918, Lucile married a Columbia University graduate named John Dotha Jones. Jones was later killed in a duel. Lucile moved from Denver to Chicago and through a long career taught at all-black high schools in five different states.

In the course of her investigations, McLean found a trunk which contained Lucile’s belongings. Included in the trunk were love letters, photographs, her graduation robe from the University of Colorado, and a number of books. Among the volumes in the trunk were W.E.B. Du Bois’ The Soul of Black Folks and several books written in Latin and French.

Lucile eventually made her way back to Denver. Blind and apparently without family, she died at a nursing home in Denver in 1989. She was 105 years old.


Sociologists Produce Data Showing Men and Women in Interracial Marriages Do a Better Job of Parenting Than Other Couples

Forty years ago in 1967, the U.S. Supreme Court in Loving v. Virginia ruled that states did not have the authority to prohibit interracial marriage. At the time 16 states did not permit the marriage of blacks and whites.

Now interracial marriages have become commonplace. New data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that 7 percent of the 59 million married-couple families in the United States have spouses from different races. In 1970 about 2 percent of all marriages were interracial. The number of marriages where one spouse is white and the other is black has increased from 65,000 in 1970 to 422,000 today.

A new study published in the American Journal of Sociology finds that men and women in interracial marriages actually do a better job of parenting than other couples. The study found that compared to families where the spouses are the same race, biracial parents invested more in educational resources such as books and computers for their children, funded and supported more cultural activities for their offspring, and spent more time helping their children deal with problems.

Brian Powell, a professor of sociology at the University of Indiana, coauthored the study with Simon Cheng, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Connecticut. Professor Powell notes, “Parents in interracial marriages face challenges in being a couple. They’re aware of the challenges their children will face. In turn, they try to compensate for this.”


95.1%  Percentage of white Americans who say they live in a neighborhood they consider safe.

83.4%  Percentage of African Americans who say they live in a neighborhood they consider safe.

source: U.S. Census Bureau



• Phillip Clay, chancellor of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was named to the board of trustees of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Dr. Clay is a 1968 graduate of Chapel Hill.



• Joseph Meyinesse, professor and chair of the department of mathematics at Southern University in Baton Rouge, received the 2007 NOBLE Prize in Mathematics from the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education.

• Thomas H. Epps III, assistant professor of chemical engineering at the University of Delaware, received the 2007 Lloyd Ferguson Young Scientist Award from the National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers.

Professor Epps is a graduate of MIT where he also earned a master’s degree. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota.

New Jersey City University honored a notable black scholar by naming its College of Education in her honor. Deborah Cannon Partridge Wolfe, who died in 2004, was a 1937 alumna of the university. She went on to earn a master’s degree and an educational doctorate from Teachers College at Columbia University. Dr. Wolfe taught at Tuskegee University in Alabama for 12 years. She then became the first African-American faculty member at Queens College of the City University of New York.

• Homer and Evangeline Myles were presented with the President’s Medal from California State University Bakersfield. Homer Myles was a practicing dentist in Bakersfield for over 35 years. When he first set up his practice in 1946 he was thought to be the only African-American dentist between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Myles is a graduate of Morehouse College and the Howard University School of Dentistry.

Evangeline Myles became a nurse in 1939. At one time she was the director of nursing education at Stillman College in Alabama.

• S. Allen Counter, an associate professor of neurology and neuroscience and director of the Harvard Foundation for Intercultural and Race Relations, was honored by the Concerned Black Men of Massachusetts for his work to encourage young African Americans to pursue study and careers in the sciences.



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