Number of Blacks Earning Bachelor’s Degrees Reaches an All-Time High

According to the U.S. Department of Education, in the year 2006 blacks earned 142,420 four-year bachelor’s degrees from American colleges and universities. The number of blacks earning bachelor’s degrees was up more than 4 percent from the previous year, 2005. In 2006 the number of African Americans earning bachelor’s degrees was the highest in this nation’s history. The figure was more than double the number of bachelor’s degrees earned by blacks in 1990.

Blacks are now nearly 12 percent of total enrollments in higher education, but in the 2006 academic year they earned only 9.6 percent of all bachelor’s degrees awarded. But note that this figure also measures considerable progress. As recently as 1985, blacks, who were then about 11.5 percent of the population, earned only 5.9 percent of all bachelor’s degrees awarded in the United States.


Five Historically Black Universities Penalized by the NCAA With a Loss of Athletic Scholarships

In the latest assessment of the academic performance of student athletes on more than 6,000 teams competing in the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s Division I, the NCAA penalized 218 teams at 123 different colleges and universities because they fell short of minimum academic performance standards. Penalties can range from warnings to restrictions on practice times and the loss of athletic scholarships.

Colleges and universities in Division I are granted a certain number of athletic scholarships that they can give out in a particular sport. A school that is penalized with a loss of scholarships will have a more difficult time than their peer institutions recruiting enough athletes to field a competitive team.

Of the 218 teams at 113 colleges and universities that were penalized with a loss of athletic scholarships there were seven teams at five historically black colleges and universities that were subject to sanctions. The football programs at Howard University, Morgan State University, Southern University, and Texas Southern University were penalized. Hampton University’s men’s basketball and track teams lost scholarships. Morgan State’s women’s volleyball team also lost scholarships.


A Quarter-Century After Being Named the First Black Miss America, Vanessa Williams Graduates From College

In 1983 Vanessa Williams, a student at Syracuse University, became the first black woman to win the title of Miss America. The Miss America pageant claims to be the largest provider of college scholarships to American women. But Williams never took full advantage of her scholarship opportunities. Nine months into her reign as Miss America Williams resigned the title after nude photographs of her surfaced and were subsequently published without Williams’ authorization in Penthouse magazine.

Williams left college and started an extremely successful career as an actress, singer, songwriter, and commercial spokesperson. Now 45 years old, Williams stars in the hit ABC television series Ugly Betty.

While pursuing her many faceted career, Williams finally found the time to complete her degree requirements. She was awarded a bachelor of fine arts degree at the Syracuse University commencement this spring.



GOP Magazine Plays the Race Card

The National Black Republican Association has debuted the latest issue of its magazine The Black Republican with the aim of attracting African-American voters to the GOP. The group, based in Sarasota, Florida, has published a 60-page glossy issue that contains articles on the civil rights record of new Florida governor Charlie Crist and efforts of the party to recruit minority voters.

But there is also inflammatory material on race. There is a large photo of a Ku Klux Klan rally from the early 20th century. The caption of the photo reads, “Every person in this photo was a Democrat.” The magazine notes the Democratic Party’s long history of “slavery, secession, segregation, and socialism.” There is also a listing of the “Top 10 Democratic Sex Scandals.” Another article, aimed at black Christians, is entitled “Democrats Wage War on God.”

The National Black Republican Association has previously sponsored billboard advertisements claiming that Martin Luther King Jr. was a Republican.


Historic Appointment at Presbyterian Seminary in Richmond

Brian K. Blount was recently inaugurated as president of the Union Theological Seminary and Presbyterian School of Christian Education in Richmond, Virginia. He is the first African American to serve as president of any seminary associated with the Presbyterian Church (USA), the nation’s largest Presbyterian group.

Dr. Blount had been serving as a professor of New Testament studies at Princeton Theological Seminary in New Jersey. He is a graduate of the College of William and Mary. He holds a master’s degree in divinity from the Princeton Theological Seminary and a Ph.D. from Emory University.

African Americans make up about 3 percent of all Presbyterians in the United States. The most recent statistics show that there are 30 blacks among the 365 students at the Richmond seminary.


The New Chancellor of Southern University at Baton Rouge

Kofi Lomotey was chosen late last month as the new chancellor of Southern University at Baton Rouge. Dr. Lomotey was provost and executive vice president at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee.

Lomotey is a graduate of Oberlin College. He holds a master’s degree from Cleveland State University and a second master’s degree and a doctorate from Stanford University.

Dr. Lomotey has previously served as president of Fort Valley State University in Georgia. He has also been a member of the faculty at Medgar Evers College, Louisiana State University, and the State University of New York at Buffalo.

He has also served as editor of the journal Urban Education.


Three Black Finalists for Presidency of the University of Wisconsin-Parkside Lose Out to the Only White Candidate

Two weeks ago, JBHE reported that there were three blacks among the four finalists for the presidency of the University of Wisconsin-Parkside in Kenosha. About 10 percent of the students at the university are black.

The three black finalists were:

Maurice C. Taylor, dean of the school of graduate studies at Morgan State University;

T.J. Bryan, a professor of English and former chancellor of Fayetteville State University in North Carolina; and

Gloria J. Gibson, dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro.

But the only nonblack candidate for the position, Robert D. Felner, Dean of the College of Education and Human Development at the University of Louisville, was chosen as the university’s president.


In Memoriam

Odell Hobbs (1937-2008)

Odell Hobbs, who had a long career as a professor of music at several black colleges and universities, died last month at the age of 71.

A native of Clarkton, North Carolina, Professor Hobbs earned a bachelor’s degree in music at Howard University in 1960. He later earned a doctorate in music from the University of Western Colorado.

Professor Hobbs began his teaching career at Langston University, the historically black college in Oklahoma. In 1966 he joined the faculty of Virginia Union University where he helped establish music as a major academic department. He also established the university’s marching band.

Hobbs also taught at Virginia Commonwealth University, St. Paul’s College, and Florida A&M University.

Zelma Cleota Hurst Henderson (1920-2008)

Zelma Henderson, the last surviving plaintiff from the original lawsuit against the public school system in Topeka, Kansas, which eventually came to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1954 as Brown v. Board of Education, has died from pancreatic cancer at the age of 88.

Henderson worked as a cosmetologist in a beauty shop in her home in Topeka. Her children were bused to an all-black school on the other side of the city. In 1951 when the local chapter of the NAACP sought out parents to initiate a class-action lawsuit against the segregated school system, Henderson, along with 12 other parents including Oliver L. Brown, quickly agreed. Since Brown was the first plaintiff alphabetically, his name became synonymous with one of the most important Supreme Court cases in history.



Eli Jones was named dean of the E.J. Ourso College of Business at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. He was a professor of marketing and associate dean for executive education programs at Bauer College of Business of the University of Houston.

Jones holds a bachelor’s degree, an MBA, and a Ph.D. from Texas A&M University.

JoAnne A. Epps was named dean of the James E. Beasley School of Law at Temple University in Philadelphia. Dean Epps has served as associate dean for academic affairs for nearly two decades. She has served on the Temple faculty since 1985.

Epps is a graduate of Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. She earned her law degree at Yale University.

Under New Holistic Approach UCLA Continues to Make Progress in Increasing Black Enrollments

In 2006 there were 99 black students in the entering class at the University of California at Los Angeles. This was the lowest number of entering black students in nearly 40 years. UCLA, like other state-operated universities in California, is prohibited by state law from considering race in its admissions decisions.

In response to its record-low number of entering black students in 2006, the UCLA administration adopted a new admissions model that incorporates a so-called “holistic” approach which looks at academic merit in the context of a student’s position in society.

The new system quickly bore fruit. In 2007 there were 392 African Americans admitted to UCLA, up from 249 in 2006. This was a whopping increase of 57 percent. There were 210 black freshmen at UCLA this past academic year, more than twice the number in 2006. Blacks were 4.5 percent of the freshman class in 2007, up from 2 percent in 2006.

Now UCLA is reporting more progress. Preliminary figures show that 233 black freshmen intend to enroll this fall. They will make up 4.9 percent of the projected entering class. More than one half of all black students accepted for admission at UCLA have decided to enroll. In 2006 black student yield was 40 percent.


“It is the glory and greatness of our tradition to speak for those who have no voice, to remember those who are forgotten, to respond to the frustrations and fulfill the aspirations of all Americans seeking a better life in a better land.”

Senator Edward Kennedy, speaking at the Democratic National Convention in New York City, August 12, 1980


Law Firm Seeks to Help Minority Students Prepare for Law School

In an effort to increase racial diversity in the legal profession, the law firm Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson is funding the Fried Frank Pre-Law Scholars Program at Hunter College in New York City. The program will offer Hunter College students an extensive preparation program to ready them to take the Law School Admission Test. In addition, the firm’s partners and associates will act as mentors helping students choose which law school is right for them and helping them with their admissions essays.


University of Delaware Revamps Its Controversial Student Orientation Program

Last November, the University of Delaware discontinued its residence life education program after the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) called the program “systematic thought reform.” Under the program, resident assistants held group and individual discussions on issues of diversity and sexuality in each dormitory on campus. FIRE and some University of Delaware students complained that the curriculum pushed a particular liberal agenda on issues of race, abortion, and sexual orientation.

Now the university is implementing a new program to promote “citizenship” among its students. The voluntary program will involve trained professionals, faculty, and university administrators rather than have resident assistants lead discussion groups in dormitories. Rather than tackle controversial social issues, the new program will emphasize personal development, student safety, environmental awareness, and the university’s cultural resources.

Blacks make up 6 percent of the 17,000 undergraduate students at the University of Delaware.


U.S. Naval Academy Honors Its First Black Graduate

The Wesley A. Brown Field House was recently opened on the campus of the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. The new $5 million, 140,000-square-foot facility will serve as the home of the indoor track and field team. The field house will also serve as an indoor practice facility for Navy’s football team.

In 1949 Brown was the first African American to graduate from the academy. He entered the Navy’s civil engineering corps, retiring in 1969 with the rank of lieutenant commander. Brown, now 81 years old, attended the opening ceremonies for the new field house.


Black Parents Are Unjustifiably Optimistic About the Higher Educational Prospects for Their Children

A new report from the National School Boards Association finds 80.9 percent of black parents whose children attend public schools in urban areas believe that their child will continue his or her education at a community college or four-year undergraduate college or university. 

Reality Check: Today less than one third of all African Americans in the 18 to 24 age group are enrolled in higher education. Only about 55 percent of black youths who graduate from high school go on to enter college.


Survey Identifies the Most Intimidated Minority on American College Campuses

Which group is most likely to be subject to intimidation, abuse, and ridicule on college campuses today? Blacks? Gays? Hispanics? Jews? Muslims? According to a survey by the Campus Tolerance Association, the answer is political conservatives.

The survey found that 71 percent of all college students reported they had seen graffiti or heard verbal insults directed against conservative students. In contrast, 31 percent of college students surveyed said they had personally seen or heard insults directed at African-American students. Nearly half witnessed insults directed at gays or lesbians.

The Campus Tolerance Foundation was founded in 2002 to combat anti-Semitism at American colleges and universities. It has since expanded its mission to end bias against all minority groups, women, gays and lesbians, and to combat sexual violence on campus.


71.8%  Percentage of white parents whose children are enrolled in urban public schools who state that “race is not a factor in the success of children at my child’s school.”

72.8%  Percentage of black parents whose children are enrolled in urban public schools who state that “race is not a factor in the success of children at my child’s school.”

source: National School Boards Association


New Institute Hopes to Increase Number of Black Students in Science and Mathematics Fields

At the college and graduate school levels African Americans remain grossly underrepresented in the fields of science, engineering, and mathematics. One of the main reasons for the shortfall is that black students receive inadequate training in these fields in elementary and secondary education.

The Council for Opportunity in Education looks to improve on that trend through the establishment of the Louis Stokes Institute for Opportunity in STEM Education. Louis Stokes served 15 terms in Congress representing Cleveland, Ohio, before retiring in 1999. Throughout his congressional career, Stokes was committed to improving educational opportunities for African Americans.

The new institute will provide resources for educators to support teaching programs for disadvantaged students in college access programs such as TRIO and Upward Bound. The institute will also provide training in curriculum development for administrators and teachers in science and mathematics. Educational aids for students and parents will also be available from the institute.




Yalana B. Bryant, assistant director for diversity initiatives at the Office of Undergraduate Admissions at Virginia Tech, received the Education Advocate of the Year Award from the American Association of University Women of Virginia.

Bryant is a graduate of Hampton University. She holds a master’s degree in social work from Michigan State University.

• Constance Lightner, associate professor in the School of Business and Economics at Fayetteville State University in North Carolina, received the 2008 Excellence in Teaching Award from the board of governors of the University of North Carolina.

Professor Lightner is a graduate of Norfolk State University. She holds a master’s and a doctoral degree from North Carolina State University.

• Edward Cox, associate professor of history at Rice University, was the recipient of the university’s George R. Brown Award for superior teaching.

• Kenneth I. Chenault, chair and CEO of American Express, received the Special Citation for Achievement from Howard University. Chenault was honored for his “exemplary contributions in the field of business.”

• Erica Hunt, president of the Twenty-First Century Foundation, received the National Community Service Award from Spelman College.

• K. Anthony Appiah, Laurance S. Rockefeller University Professor of Philosophy at Princeton University, was among the eight new members elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. The prestigious society is limited to 250 individuals.

• Thelma C. Davidson Adair received the Barnard Medal of Distinction at the Barnard College commencement. She founded the Mount Morris New Life day-care center in Harlem and helped establish the Head Start program in New York City.

Adair is a graduate of Bennett College. She holds a master’s degree and a doctorate from Teachers College at Columbia University.


Copyright © 2008. The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education. All rights reserved.