Business Is By Far the Most Popular Major for African-American College Graduates

Last week JBHE reported that the number of blacks earning bachelor’s degrees in the United States reached an all-time high. More than 131,000 African Americans earned a four-year college degree in 2004.

When we break down the statistics on bachelor’s degrees, we find that there is very little difference in the fields of study chosen by black and white college students. For blacks, as well as whites, business management was the most popular major by a large margin. Blacks earned 33,404 bachelor’s degrees in the field of business management and administration in the 2003-04 academic year. This was 25.5 percent of all bachelor’s degrees earned by blacks.

The next most popular field of study for blacks who earned bachelor’s degrees was the social sciences. This includes sociology, economics, and political science. Education was the second most popular major among whites. The fields of psychology, communications, and health sciences were popular majors among both racial groups. It is noteworthy to point out that computer science was the fifth most popular major among blacks but was not among the 10 most popular majors for whites.


“The greatest challenge for all of us is to look for the lower-income student who has not excelled at the same level in terms of standardized tests but has been able to excel despite all the things that were put in his path.”

Shirley M. Tilghman, president of Princeton University, in The Wall Street Journal, July 17, 2006


A Music Major at the University of North Texas Is the First Black Woman to Be Crowned Miss Texas

Shilah Phillips studied voice at Howard University for one year before dropping out of college and moving to Los Angeles with the hope of landing a recording contract. After two years encountering limited success she went home to Texas and enrolled at Collin County Community College in Plano. On the urging of a friend, she entered and won a local beauty pageant, which qualified her to run for Miss Texas.

Phillips won the title of Miss Texas earlier this month and will represent the state in the Miss America contest in early 2007. She is the first African American to win the Miss Texas competition.

The title of Miss Texas comes with a $13,000 scholarship, which at some point in the future Phillips will use to study jazz at the University of North Texas. In the meantime she will appear in a television reality series, Finding Miss America, which will be taped in Los Angeles this fall and shown on Country Music Television.


Black Woman Named to Head Predominantly White Law Firm

It is rare for a woman and even rarer for an African American to lead one of the nation’s predominantly white law firms. But Mary A. Daffin has been chosen as managing partner at Barrett Burke Wilson Castle Daffin & Frappier in Houston. The firm specializes in representing national mortgage lenders.

Daffin, who served as an assistant United States attorney before entering private practice in 1982, is a graduate of Alabama State University. She earned her law degree at the Thurgood Marshall School of Law at Texas Southern University.


University of Chicago Researchers Find Wide Racial Disparities in Sleep Patterns

Researchers at the University of Chicago recently completed a study which shows that wealthy white women are the most likely to get a good night’s sleep. The study, published in the July issue of the American Journal of Epidemiology, recorded the amount of time participants spent in bed as well as the time they actually slept.

The results showed that white women get an average of 6.7 hours of sleep per night. White men sleep just over six hours. Black women average 5.9 hours of sleep each night whereas black men are asleep only 5.1 hours per night. Black men took an average of 36 minutes to get to sleep once they were in bed. White women fell asleep in 13 minutes.

Income explains part of the racial difference. Researchers found a direct correlation with total sleep time and the time it took to get to sleep and family income. The more money people make, the easier it is for them to sleep. Low-income people may have more worries which keep them awake and they are more likely to live in congested, noisy neighborhoods which make it difficult to fall asleep.



Henry Louis Gates Jr. Regains Title as Most Cited Black Scholar in the Humanities

Each year JBHE conducts a citation analysis of data from the Arts and Humanities Index compiled by Thomson Scientific in Philadelphia. Each year, JBHE searches this vast database to determine how many times the works of a particular black scholar have been cited in any given year in academic journals in the humanities.

In JBHE’s first four annual surveys of citations in the arts and humanities (1998-2001), the highly prolific and influential black scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. of Harvard University led our rankings. In 2002 Paul Gilroy, a professor of sociology and black studies at Yale, was the leader in the citation count in the humanities. Toni Morrison, the Nobel laureate and Princeton University professor, led the rankings in 2003. In 2004 Professor Gilroy regained the top spot.

This year Professor Gatges once again regains the title. He narrowly edged out Professor Gilroy with Professor Morrison not far behind. Gates had 113 citations in the humanities in 2005, just two more than Professor Gilroy. Professor Morrison had 95 citations. The late August Wilson was cited 90 times in academic journals in the humanities.

Poet bell hooks had 65 citations in humanities journals in 2005. This puts her in fifth place in our survey. Novelists Albert Murray and Alice Walker were the only other black scholars to receive 50 or more citations in the arts and humanities in 2005. Also, among the top 10 most highly cited black scholars in the humanities are Cornel West and Colin Palmer who both teach at Princeton University, author Chinua Achebe, who teaches at Bard College, Houston A. Baker, who recently left Duke University for Vanderbilt University, and Paule Marshall of New York University.


Outreach Programs for College-Bound Black Students in California Fall Victim to Governor Schwarzenegger’s Budget Axe

After the enactment of Proposition 209 in 1996, the University of California intensified outreach programs in an attempt to encourage black and other minority students to apply to the university’s campuses.

Among the programs is the Pre-College Academy at the University of California at Berkeley. Under this program, high school students from low-income families, or students who would be the first in their family to attend college, come to Berkeley for a six-week summer program that gives them a taste of college life. They receive instruction in mathematics and writing skills that will help them gain admission to the University of California. Due to state law, these programs are open to students of all races. But because they are more likely to come from low-income families, black and Latino students are disproportionately represented in these programs.

By 2002 the state of California was spending $127 million annually on outreach programs and $85 million of this sum was used in programs operated by the University of California. At the height of the outreach programs, 80,000 students each year were participating.

But these pre-college outreach programs have been scaled back in recent years due to the state’s financial difficulties. The University of California’s budget for these programs has dropped from $85 million to $17 million. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger sought to eliminate all funding for these programs for the coming year, but the legislature held the budget at $17 million. The number of students participating in these pre-college programs has been cut in half.

The California State University system saw its budget for similar outreach programs cut from $52 million to $7 million.



The Community College Research Center at Teachers College of Columbia University received a five-year, $9.8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education for a study to develop programs to help at-risk students make the transition to college and master the basic skills they need in order to stay in school and earn a degree.

Bowie State University, the historically black educational institution in Maryland, was awarded a $75,000 grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development for a program to strengthen the higher education curriculum in the African nation of Liberia.

The WellPoint Foundation has made a $200,000 grant to National Medical Fellowships, Inc. The money will be used for a need-based scholarship program to help black and other minority students pay for medical school education.



The 33 GOP Representatives Who Opposed the Voting Rights Act Extension

It is generally agreed that that for blacks to continue to make progress in higher education, African Americans must play a major role in the political process in this country. With a strong voice at the polls, blacks can ensure that Congress will continue to fund the Pell grant and other federal financial aid programs for low-income students. Black voter strength can also lead to the election of governors and even presidents who will appoint judges who will rule favorably on issues such as affirmative action and black-only scholarships. Without electoral clout, support for the nation’s historically black colleges and universities will be in jeopardy.

Thus, it is imperative for black voting rights to be protected and for efforts to be made to maintain and increase black electoral power. Recently the House passed, by a vote of 390-33, a 25-year extension to the act which requires jurisdictions, mostly in the South, to submit electoral law changes for federal approval.

All those who voted against the extension were Republicans, most of whom represent districts in the South where the provisions of the act are in effect. There were also several GOP representatives in the Southwest who strongly opposed the provision that ballots be printed in Spanish. In the accompanying box is a list of the 33 GOP representatives who voted against the extension of the Voting Rights Act.

In the Senate, all senators voted to extend the Voting Rights Act.


Senate Votes No Increase in the Maximum Pell Grant

Recently the House of Representatives passed an appropriations bill that authorized a $100 increase in the maximum Pell Grant award for low-income students. Despite escalating college costs at both public and private universities, there has been no increase in the maximum Pell Grant award for the past five years.

These awards now provide up to $4,050 in scholarship grants for low-income college students. About 27 percent of all Pell Grant recipients are African Americans.

This past week, the Senate Appropriations Committee came out with its version of the spending bill for student aid programs. It included no increase in the maximum Pell Grant award. The two versions eventually will be settled by a House/Senate conference committee.



Bringing Racial Diversity to an All-White Campus

The University of Wisconsin at Platteville is located in the rural southwestern corner of Wisconsin near the Iowa state line. The population of the region is almost all white so it is not surprising that only one percent of the student body at the university is black.

But administrators at the university have devised a unique plan to bring more racial diversity to campus. The university has entered into a partnership with Mississippi Valley State University in Itta Bena. At this historically black university, 94 percent of the student body is African American.

The universities participate in an exchange program for both students and faculty. Students in the majors of criminal justice, education, and the fine arts can spend a semester at the other university and earn credits toward their major. Other students participating in the exchange program can take only elective courses.

Faculty can also choose to teach a semester at the partner university. There are also cultural exchange programs where choirs and other groups travel to the other university for performances.


White Supremacist Retires Early From University of Leeds

Frank Ellis, a 53-year-old lecturer of Russian and Slavonic studies at the U.K.’s University of Leeds, was suspended this past March for racial comments he made to a student newspaper. Ellis told the paper that he believed blacks were “educationally inferior” to whites and that immigrants to Britain should be “rounded up and deported.”

The university has now agreed to give an early retirement package to Ellis, rather than go through a lengthy legal proceeding to determine if his suspension was justified. In addition to standard retirement benefits, Ellis will receive a year’s salary and an undisclosed sum to reimburse him for legal costs that he has incurred.


In Arkansas, Merit-Based College Scholarships Go Almost Entirely to Whites

In 1997 the Governor’s Distinguished Scholars program was established in Arkansas. To qualify for a Governor’s Distinguished Scholars award high school students must score a 32 on the ACT test or a 1440 on the SAT. They also must have a 3.5 grade point average. The state allocates funds for 250 Distinguished Scholars each year. Winners of these awards receive $10,000 if they enroll in a college or university in Arkansas. They can renew the scholarship if they remain enrolled full-time and maintain a 3.25 grade point average in college.

Since the program was instituted, 2,000 Governor’s Distinguished Scholars have been named. Of these, only 23, or 1.15 percent, have been black. More than 18 percent of all students enrolled in college in Arkansas are black.

The ACT threshold of 32 makes it nearly impossible for black students to qualify for these awards. In the entire nation only 121 black students scored 32 or above on the ACT in 2005. This was 0.1 percent of all black ACT test takers. It is likely that less than a handful of black students in Arkansas score 32 or above on the ACT each year. But there are 250 Distinguished Scholars awards each year, almost all of which go to whites.


Former Governor Takes Responsibility for 1968 Killings of Three Black Students at South Carolina State University

In early February 1968, black students at South Carolina State University in Orangeburg mounted a protest at a segregated bowling alley in town. On February 8, students lit a bonfire on campus. One police officer was struck in the face with a piece of wood. Officers then opened fire, killing three students and wounding another 27. The incident became known as the Orangeburg Massacre.

Nine police officers faced trial for using excessive force. All were acquitted. The only person jailed as a result of the event was Cleveland Sellers, a black student who had played a role in organizing the demonstration. Sellers was later pardoned and now heads the African-American studies program at the University of South Carolina.

Now, in a new book, Robert E. McNair, who was governor of South Carolina at that time, takes the blame for the Orangeburg Massacre. McNair, who was generally considered a progressive in race relations, tells biographer Philip G. Grose, “The fact that I was governor at the time placed the mantle of responsibility squarely on my shoulders, and I have borne that responsibility with all the heaviness it entails for all those years.”


Financial Woes Continue at Fisk University

Hazel O’Leary, president of Fisk University, the historically black educational institution in Nashville, Tennessee, disclosed that twice during the past four years the university has dipped into its endowment to cover operating shortfalls. The fund did not lose any value because paintings owned by the university were transferred to the endowment. At the current time, the Fisk endowment of $15.2 million includes artwork that is valued at $7.7 million. The university’s cash and investment portfolios have dropped from $13.5 million to $7.1 million since 2001.

The transfer of artwork to the endowment and the siphoning off of cash was included in footnotes to the college’s financial statements but were not widely publicized. The transfer has meant that the university has seen a sharp drop-off in the interest it earns from the cash portion of its endowment fund. The university had a $600,000 operating deficit during the past academic year.

Fisk University owns artwork that has an appraised value of more than $31 million. But much of the artwork was donated to the university with the stipulation that it could not be sold. Fisk is currently engaged in litigation that seeks to overturn this stipulation and give the university the right to sell the artwork. In explaining her decision to go to court, O’Leary said, “Our job is developing and educating students. It is not having museums.”


Benedict College Also in Red Ink

Benedict College, the historically black educational institution in Columbia, South Carolina, is also experiencing financial woes. The college was forced to postpone paying employees as a result of a cash shortfall. The school had an operating deficit of $2.2 million last year, due in part to lower than expected enrollments. A recent audit showed that the college had more than $100 million in debts and only $35 million in assets.


$10,300  The average amount of student loan debt incurred by white college students.

$8,800  The average amount of student loan debt incurred by African-American college students.

source: U.S. Department of Education



Charles J. Alexander was appointed associate vice provost for student diversity at the University of California at Los Angeles. He has been serving as associate dean for student affairs at the School of Dentistry at the University of California at San Francisco.

Alexander is a native of Syracuse, New York, and graduated from the State University of New York at Cortland. He holds a master’s degree in sociology from the University of Nebraska at Omaha and a doctorate in the sociological foundations of education from Marquette University.

Valerie Ashby, an associate professor of chemistry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, was named to a Bowman and Gordon Gray Distinguished Term Professorship. The position provides a salary supplement, funds for research support, and a sabbatical.

Merdis J. McCarter was named interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Winston-Salem State University. She was the senior associate provost for academic affairs/undergraduate programs and for the past year has also served as interim provost at the university.

Calvin Howell, professor of physics at Duke University, was elected director of the Triangle Universities Nuclear Laboratory. Howell has worked at the laboratory since 1979. Seventeen physicists from three universities currently conduct research at the facility.

Robert L. Satcher Sr. was named interim president of Saint Paul’s College, the historically black educational institution in Lawrenceville, Virginia. Dr. Satcher is a professor of chemistry at the college.






Copyright © 2006. The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education. All rights reserved.