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An Alarming Increase in Black High School Dropouts

Last week, JBHE reported that the percentage of all black youths in the 16- to 24-year-old age bracket who did not have a high school diploma or its equivalent had been cut in half since 1972. This is solid good news. But the most recent data for 2005 shows that the high school dropout rate is on the increase.  

In the year that spanned October 2004 to October 2005, 7.3 percent of all black youths in the 15 to 24 age bracket dropped out of high school grades 10 through 12 in that particular period. For whites, only 2.8 percent of all youths in that age group dropped out of school that particular year. Therefore, in the most current year for which there are statistics, blacks were 2.6 times as likely as whites to drop out of high school.

The dropout rate for blacks in the 2004-05 year was at the highest level since 1989. The fact that in 2004-05 blacks were 2.6 times as likely to drop out of high school as whites is the largest racial gap in more than 35 years.

“It’s the largest federal commitment to higher education since the G.I. Bill passed in 1944.”

Congressman George Miller, chair of the House Education and Labor Committee, discussing the passage by the House of the College Cost Reduction Act which would lower interest rates students pay on loans, increase Pell Grant allocations for low-income students, and earmark $500 million for historically black colleges

Five Black Community College Students Win Jack Kent Cooke Transfer Scholarships

The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation recently announced its 2007 Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship recipients. Community college graduates selected as transfer scholars receive up to $30,000 per year for up to three years in order to complete their bachelor’s degree at four-year institutions. This year 51 Jack Kent Cooke Transfer Scholars were named. Five of these 2007 transfer scholars are African Americans who will begin their junior year at four-year educational institutions this fall. Here are the five scholars:  

Hamilton D. Cunningham is a graduate of Georgia Perimeter College in Decatur. He will enroll in Howard University this fall. A high school dropout, he later earned his GED certificate and joined the U.S. Air Force. A trumpeter, he plans to study music and business.

Michelle V. Mills is a native of Jamaica. She came to the United States in 2004 to receive treatment for a medical condition. She enrolled in Broward Community College in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and worked two jobs to pay for her tuition. She will enroll at the University of Miami this fall to study law.

McStephen O.A. Solomon is a native of Nigeria. When he was 14 his mother was killed and his father disabled in an automobile crash. He became responsible for his four siblings. The family came to the United States in 1994 and he became a citizen in 2001.  He worked to support his family as an actor and a personal trainer. Now 36 years old, Solomon graduated from South Suburban College in South Holland, Illinois. He will enroll this fall at DePaul University and plans on a career in international law.

Stephen Stigler is a native of Lancaster, California. He quit school at age 14 in order to work to help support his family. In 1997 he lapsed into a diabetic coma and had to stop work. His family was obliged to move into a homeless shelter. Now 47 years old, Stigler has completed study at Antelope Valley Community College and will enroll at the University of California at Los Angeles this fall.

Brenda L. Suggs got married directly out of high school and entered the work force. Decades later, when she fell and broke her back in two places making it impossible for her to continue at her job, she decided to go back to school. Now 55 years old, she has completed work at Texas State Technical College in Waco and will enroll at Baylor University this fall where she will undertake a business curriculum with a specialization in entrepreneurship.

Rising Tuition Costs Put South Carolina’s Flagship State Universities Out of Reach of Many Low-Income Black Students

Blacks are 30 percent of the college-age population in the state of South Carolina. And statewide, blacks make up 28 percent of all students enrolled in higher education. But blacks are only 13.7 percent of the student body at the flagship campus of the University of South Carolina at Columbia. At state-operated Clemson University, blacks are less than 7 percent of the student body.  

One of the reasons for the low black enrollments at the two highest-ranking state universities is money. Tuition and fees at the University of South Carolina will increase 7 percent this year to more than $8,300. At Clemson University, tuition and fees for in-state students now approach $10,000. These fees do not include living expenses. Therefore, it is far more affordable for large numbers of black students to attend community college or other state-run educational institutions near their home where tuition fees are significantly lower.

Compounding the problem is a shortage of state financial aid for low-income students. In the 2006-07 academic year, the state of South Carolina appropriated $276.2 million in financial aid for college students. Of this amount, $225.9 million, nearly 82 percent, went to merit-based aid programs. Only $50.3 million was allocated for financial aid based on need.

Bad News for Blacks: Need-Based Grants Are Becoming a Smaller Slice of State Financial Aid Programs

Increasingly, financial aid for college students is being allocated on the basis of merit rather than need. Blacks, who are three times as likely to be poor as whites, disproportionately benefit when need-based aid is directed toward youngsters in low-income families. But blacks, who on average have significantly lower grade point averages and scores on standardized tests than whites, receive almost insignificant portions of merit-based aid.

A new report from the National Association of State Student Grant and Aid Programs finds that 60 percent of all financial aid provided by state governments and 73 percent of all financial aid grants are based on need. About 20 percent of all need-based grants also have a merit component where only high-performing, low-income students are eligible for the grants.

In 2006 Rhode Island and Wyoming were the only states offering varying levels of need-based aid with no awards based on merit. Six years ago there were 14 states that offered only need-based aid. In 2006 there were nine additional states where 90 percent or more of all financial aid was based on need. These states include New York, California, Illinois, and Pennsylvania, all states with large black populations.

In 2006, 22 states — up from 12 in 2004 — offered more merit-based aid than need-based aid to undergraduate students. This is serious because many of these states are in the South where there are large numbers of low-income black students who need financial assistance in order to help them bear the costs of a college education.

In Memoriam

William Percy Hytche Sr. (1929-2007)

William P. Hytche Sr., a mathematician who served for 21 years as president of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, died this past week at his home in Princess Anne, Maryland. He was 78 years old.  

Dr. Hytche was a native of Porter, Oklahoma. He was a graduate of Langston University and held a master’s degree and an educational doctorate from Oklahoma State University.

In 1960 Hytche joined the faculty of what is now the University of Maryland Eastern Shore as an instructor of mathematics. He rose through the faculty and administrative ranks and was named chancellor in 1976. He served in that role until his retirement in 1997.  

During his tenure, enrollments at the university tripled and the campus grew by more than 300 acres. Some 32 academic degree programs were added to the curriculum during his tenure.

Sheryl Shivers-Blackwell (1971-2007)

Sheryl Shivers-Blackwell, an assistant professor of business at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, was found strangled in the locked bedroom of her home earlier this month. Her husband had called police. When police arrived they found the husband in another part of the house in critical condition. He later died. Two small children were found alive. Police believe the incident was a murder/suicide resulting from a domestic dispute. Police had previously been called to the house to break up an argument between the couple.

Professor Shivers-Blackwell was a magna cum laude graduate of Florida A&M University. Later she was the MBA student of the year at the university. In 1999 she received her Ph.D. in organization behavior and human resource management from Purdue University. She joined the Florida A&M University faculty in 1999.


Philander Smith College, a historically black educational institution in Little Rock, Arkansas, received a $1,551,454 grant from the U.S. Department of Education. The grant will be used for academic programs and infrastructure improvements.

Fort Valley State University, the historically black educational institution in Fort Valley, Georgia, received a five-year, $2.3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education. The grant will be used to strengthen academic programs, boost the endowment, and make improvements to university facilities.

Paul Quinn College, the historically black educational institution in Dallas, Texas, received a five-year, $1.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education. The college plans to use the funds to strengthen its honors program and to expand its student retention efforts.

Dillard University, the historically black educational institution in New Orleans, received a $1.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The grant will be used for a multimedia technological research project at the university.

The University of South Carolina received a $2.7 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to improve health in three predominantly black, low-income communities in South Carolina through exercise, nutrition, and educational programs.


Amherst College Eliminates All Student Loans

Amherst College, the highly selective liberal arts college in western Massachusetts, has announced that it is eliminating all loans from its financial aid packages and replacing them with scholarship grants. The program, which will go into effect in the fall of 2008, will include all incoming and current students.  

Tom Parker, dean of admission and financial aid, noted, “Students who graduate from college with debt feel compelled to make career choices based in part on their need to pay off student loans. Now graduates from low- and middle-income families will be able to make career and life choices free of the specter of debt.”

Blacks make up 9 percent of the student body at Amherst College.

After 225 Years, Washington and Lee University Names an African American to a Departmental Chair

Ted DeLaney is the new chair of the history department at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia. Founded in 1782, Washington and Lee is the ninth-oldest institution of higher education in America. Professor DeLaney is the first African American ever to chair an academic department at the institution.  Professor DeLaney is a native of Lexington. He had planned to attend Morehouse College during the civil rights era but his mother was worried he would become a political activist and wind up in jail. So he stayed home and worked as a janitor at what was then an all-white Washington and Lee University. He later worked as a lab assistant in the biology department.

DeLaney did not enter college until he was 39 years old. After graduating from Washington and Lee at age 41 he taught public school and then earned his Ph.D. at the College of William and Mary. He joined the faculty at Washington and Lee in 1995.

The New Management Team at Florida A&M University

James H. Ammons, the new president of Florida A&M University (FAMU), faces a monumental task of righting a teetering ship. Serious financial and administrative problems have plagued the university over the past several years, and the institution’s academic reputation has been severely tarnished. This situation had become so serious this past April that some members of the Florida legislature proposed closing the university’s doors.  

Taking office earlier this month, President Ammons, who was formerly the chancellor of North Carolina Central University (NCCU) in Durham, has put together a completely new management team to help him solve the university’s multitude of problems. Here are the key members of Ammons’ administration:

Barbara Barnes, a professor of education at FAMU, was named interim provost and vice president for academic affairs;
Rosalind Fuse-Hall, who was Ammons’ executive assistant at NCCU, was named chief of staff in the Office of the President;
Roland Gaines, vice chancellor for student affairs at NCCU, was appointed vice president for student affairs at FAMU;
Charles O’Duor, former vice president for financial affairs at NCCU, was named vice president for audit and compliance at FAMU;
Avery D. McKnight, an associate of the law firm Allen, Norton & Blue, was appointed general counsel of the university;
Teresa Hardee, former assistant vice chancellor for financial planning at NCCU, was named interim CFO and vice president for fiscal affairs at FAMU; and
Sharon Saunders was promoted from special assistant for communications to FAMU’s chief communications officer.

Recommendations for Increasing Educational Opportunities for the Working Poor

Many young African Americans attend college part time and work to help support their families and to pay for tuition and other costs associated with higher education. In addition, many older African Americans go to college part time to learn a new skill or to better their qualifications for work while they continue their employment.  

A new report from the Institute for Higher Education Policy finds that only 54 percent of low-income, part-time college students receive some type of financial aid grant. The average low-income, part-time college student was left with college expenses of $4,000 which they had to pay from savings, or they had to incur debt. As a result, college dropout rates for this group, of which blacks are a disproportionate percent, are very high.

The Institute for Higher Education Policy report offers a number of recommendations including:  

• Giving education tax credits for low-income students who pay for their own college education;

• Increasing federal, state, and institutional grant aid for part-time students;

• Having enrollment in higher education meet work requirements for single mothers who are on welfare; and

• Increasing the income limit for qualifying for the $0 expected family contribution in the federal family need analysis formula. The full report may be obtained by clicking here.

Tennessee State University Will Honor 14 Students Whom It Expelled in 1961

In 1961, 14 black students were expelled from Tennessee State University, the historically black educational institution in Nashville, for participating in the Freedom Rides. A 1960 law enacted in Tennessee required state-operated colleges and universities to take disciplinary action against any student who was arrested in a civil rights demonstration.

Now the university is hoping to award all 14 students honorary degrees. However, to do so would require a special waiver from the Tennessee Board of Regents because current rules limit any particular state university to two honorary degree awards per year.

Chairman of the Board of Trustees at Roger Williams University Resigns After Accusation He Used a Racial Slur in a Board Meeting

Ralph R. Papitto, chair of the board of trustees and a major financial benefactor of Roger Williams University in Bristol, Rhode Island, resigned his position after he was reported to have used the word “nigger” during a board meeting. At the time, the board consisted of 14 white men and two women. According to another board member, during a discussion of increasing racial diversity on the board, Papitto said, “They want us to add more poor kids and they want us to add more, well, I can’t call them niggers, I learned that from Imus.” Some board members said that Papitto had used disparaging language about blacks and other racial groups on several occasions in the past.

After his resignation was announced, Papitto issued an apology and agreed to have his name removed from the university’s law school.

Blacks are a mere 1.3 percent of the more than 4,300 undergraduate students at the university.

10.4%  Percentage of all white Americans in 2006 who had no type of medical insurance.

15.9%  Percentage of all African Americans in 2006 who had no type of medical insurance.

source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Update: Former Norfolk State University Professor Sentenced to Life in Prison in Ethiopia Is Now Pardoned and Set Free

Several weeks ago JBHE reported that Yacob Hailemariam, who served on the faculty at Norfolk State University in Virginia for more than 20 years, was convicted of treason in an Ethiopian court. Last week the court spared his life but sentenced him to life imprisonment. Then, in a surprise, he was pardoned and set free.

In 2005 Professor Hailemariam gave up his faculty position at Norfolk State University to return to his native Ethiopia to run for parliament. He was elected along with a host of other reform politicians. But Prime Minister Meles Zenawi stripped the reform politicians of power in the new government. Supporters of the reform movement took to the streets in protest. More than 200 people were killed in riots that followed.

Hailemariam and 37 of his colleagues subsequently were arrested and charged with treason and genocide. All were convicted and sentenced. They have now all been released from prison.


Karen Witherspoon was named director of urban and government affairs at City College of New York. She was promoted from associate director, a position she held since 2002.

Larry Warren was named chief executive officer of the Howard University Hospital. He is the former CEO of the University of Michigan Hospitals. Warren is a graduate of Eastern Michigan University.

Edward Thompson III was appointed provost of Marygrove College in Detroit, Michigan. He was the vice president for academic affairs and dean of the faculty at Armstrong Atlantic State University in Savannah, Georgia.  

Dr. Thompson is a graduate of the University of Arizona. He holds a Ph.D. in political science from Howard University.

Lisa E. Farrington was named to the Cosby Endowed Professorship at Spelman College for the 2007-08 academic years. Dr. Farrington is the author of Creating Their Own Image: The History of African-American Women Artists.

Professor Farrington is a graduate of Howard University. She holds a master’s of fine arts degree from American University and a Ph.D. in art history from the City University of New York.

Yolanda Pierce was named Elmer G. Homrighausen Associate Professor of African-American Religion and Literature at the Princeton Theological Seminary. She was an associate professor of English at the University of Kentucky.

Professor Pierce is a graduate of Princeton University. She holds a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in English from Cornell University.

Bruce Stewart was appointed associate director of athletics at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia. He was the senior associate athletic director for finance at Coastal Carolina University in Conway, South Carolina.

A graduate of Morehouse College, Stewart holds graduate degrees in sports law and sports management from Ohio State University.

Sheila McDaniel was appointed associate director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Interdisciplinary Scientific Environmental Technology Cooperative Science Center at North Carolina A&T State University.

McDaniel holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Phoenix.

Karen Johnson Shaheed was named vice president and general counsel at Bowie State University in Maryland. She was vice president for government relations at the National Labor College in Silver Springs, Maryland.

Shaheed is a graduate of the University of Maryland Baltimore County and holds a law degree from the University of Maryland.

Damani Musgrave was named computer consultant in the Office of Development-Advancement Services at Syracuse University. He was a computer specialist in the technical support team at the Syracuse University College of Law.

M. William Howard Jr., the pastor of the Bethany Baptist Church in Newark, New Jersey, was named chair of the Rutgers University board of governors. He is the first African American to chair the board.


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