The Persisting Black-White Family Income Gap Is a Major Barrier to Increased Educational Opportunities for African Americans

One of the major barriers to increasing black enrollments in higher education is money. Tuition and fees at some private colleges are now close to $50,000 annually. Costs of attending state-operated higher educational institutions have skyrocketed in recent years.

On top of this is the fact that at both the federal and state level, financial aid is being increasingly targeted toward middle-class families while assistance to low-income families is scaled back.

The cost of higher education and the availability of student financial aid are especially important to college-bound blacks. New data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows the severity of the problem.

In 2006 white families in the United States had a median income of $52,423. For black families, the median income was $31,969. Thus the average black family in the United States had an income that was 61 percent of the income of the average white family. Furthermore, the black-white family income gap has remained virtually unchanged for the past 40 years!

At the high end of the income pyramid where college costs become more affordable, we find that 21.6 percent of all white families in the United States have incomes of more than $100,000. For blacks, only 9.1 percent of all families have incomes above $100,000.


“Every young person who should go to college should not have to take out $50,000 worth of loans. You should be getting grants instead of loans. We can afford to do that. We are the wealthiest nation on earth.”

— Illinois senator and Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, speaking at Florida A&M University, August 24, 2007


African-American Scores on the SAT Test Trail Those of Every Other Major Ethnic Group in the United States

In 2007 the average black score on the combined math and verbal portions of the SAT test was 862. The mean score for whites on the combined math and verbal SAT was 1061, nearly 17 percent higher.

Not only are African-American scores on the SAT far below the scores of whites, but they also trail the scores of every other major ethnic group in the United States including students of Puerto Rican and Mexican backgrounds. In fact, few people realize that American Indian and Alaska Native students on average score 119 points higher than the average score of black students. Mexican-American students score 59 points higher than blacks. On average, Asian American students score 230 points, or 19 percent, higher than African Americans.


University of Virginia Posts Major Gain in Black Freshmen

When JBHE first started to track black freshman enrollments at the nation’s highest-ranked universities in the early 1990s, the University of Virginia led the way in each of the first five years of our survey. But over the next decade, the university never regained the top spot.

This year the University of Virginia is once again challenging for first place in our annual survey. While not all universities have reported final figures, the data shows that there are 360 black first-year students at the University of Virginia this fall. They make up 11.4 percent of all first-year students. Last fall there were 260 black freshmen. Therefore, black freshman enrollments are up nearly 40 percent from a year ago.

Valerie Gregory, an admissions officer at the University of Virginia, told JBHE that the university now begins to contact prospective black students as early as 10th grade. The university has sought to expand its black applicant pool so that it has more qualified black students from which to choose members of its entering class. This strategy has been successful. The number of blacks who have applied to the university increased from 1,074 in 2005 to 1,425 this year.


Study Shows Scholars at Some Black Universities Are Getting Their Toe in the Door of Academic Publishing in the Sciences

A new study by the National Science Foundation finds that some historically black colleges and universities are beginning to make an impact in the world of academic research in the sciences. The NSF examined the number of papers published by scholars in scientific disciplines at the nation’s 200 universities with the largest research programs. For published papers with multiple authors, the university affiliate of each author was counted.

In what may come as a surprise to many readers, three historically black institutions led all others in the percentage increase in the number of published papers in the 1992 to 2001 period. Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science in Los Angeles topped the list. The number of papers published by scholars at Charles R. Drew increased by 127 percent from 1992 to 2001. At Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, the number of published papers increased by 116 percent. At Clark Atlanta University, the number of published papers rose by 101 percent. None of the other 197 universities in the study doubled their paper output.

In contrast, at Johns Hopkins University, which traditionally has the largest research budget of any American educational institution, saw just a 19 percent increase in published papers. The University of California at Los Angeles, North Carolina State University, Virginia Tech, the University of Southern California, Purdue University, the University of Chicago, the University of Texas, and Lehigh University all showed declines in the number of published papers by faculty members.

Among the historically black institutions, Howard University showed a drop of 19 percent in the number of published papers between 1992 and 2001.

It must be noted that the progress of the three historically black universities at the top of the list is almost certainly explained by the “law of small numbers.” These universities probably had an insignificant number of published papers in 1992. With the doubling of the small number (say, from 20 to 40), these universities posted a huge percentage increase. On the other hand, Johns Hopkins’ 19 percent increase may have been a gain from 1,000 papers to 1,190 papers.

Nevertheless, the fact that some historically black research universities are making progress is cause for celebration.



A New College and a New Academic Program at Hampton University

Hampton University, the historically black educational institution in Virginia, announced the creation of its College of Education and Continuing Studies. Cassandra Herring is the dean of the new college.

The division of education within the college will house the Hampton University Child Development Center as well as the department of education and the department of health, physical education, and recreation. The division of continuing education will include all programs for professional and career studies.

The university also announced the creation of a new degree program in criminal justice and criminology which will begin offering classes next semester.


College With a High Percentage of Black Enrollments Offers One Week Free Trial to Prospective Students

Chatfield College is a small, two-year institution in St. Martin, Ohio, that is affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church. The college has just opened a new satellite campus in downtown Cincinnati. The student body at the main Chatfield campus is 32 percent black and the Cincinnati campus may have an even higher percentage of black students.

The college developed a unique marketing tool to get its new campus off the ground. Prospective students were offered one week of college absolutely free of any charges. Students could sample as many classes as they wished during the trial period.


Fisk University May Finally See Some Light at the End of the Tunnel in Its Effort to Raise Money From Its Collection of Art

The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico, has dropped a lawsuit against Fisk University, the historically black educational institution in Nashville. The museum opposed Fisk’s plans to sell two paintings from its Stieglitz Collection which had been donated to the university by Georgia O’Keeffe with the stipulation that the collection remain intact at the university. A proposed settlement where one painting would have been sold to the museum and another would be sold on the open market was rejected by the Tennessee attorney general and a state judge.

But a more lucrative offer for Fisk University may be agreeable to all parties. Alice Walton, one of several heirs to the Wal-Mart fortune, has offered to pay Fisk $30 million for the right to display the entire collection at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas, for six months each year. This museum is scheduled to open in 2009.

The specifics of the deal are yet to be worked out. And the courts and the state attorney general would have to agree with the arrangement.



LeRhonda S. Manigault was appointed assistant professor of religion at Wake Forest University. Dr. Manigault is a graduate of Duke University. She holds a master’s degree and a Ph.D. from Emory University.

Carol Stewart is the new ombudsperson at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts. She was a project manager in the School of Education at the University of Massachusetts, where she is studying for a master’s degree in public policy and public administration.

Nikki Giovanni, a distinguished poet and professor at Virginia Tech, is spending the current academic year as distinguished visiting professor at Fisk University. Giovanni is a graduate of Fisk University.

Deborah J. Callaway was named interim dean of the School of Education at North Carolina A&T State University. She has been serving as chair of the department of health and leisure studies at the university.

Dr. Callaway is a graduate of Virginia State University. She holds a master’s degree in education from Virginia Commonwealth University and an educational doctorate from Virginia Tech.

Michael W. Maxwell, vice president for safety and strategic services for Pepco Holdings Inc., was named to the board of visitors of the Virginia Military Institute.

Caroline Beschea-Fache was appointed assistant professor of French at Davidson College in North Carolina. She specializes in the study of Métissage, an examination of multiracialism in literature and the social sciences. She holds a master’s degree from the University of Lille.





Professors Lawrence Bobo and Marcyliena Morgan Have Agreed to Return to Harvard University

As reported in JBHE last May, then interim president of Harvard University Derek Bok approved the appointment of African-American scholar Marcyliena Morgan to a tenured position at Harvard. Now, Morgan, a linguistic anthropologist, and her husband, the esteemed sociologist Lawrence Bobo, have agreed to return to Harvard from Stanford University.

In 2004 Lawrence Summers, who was then president of Harvard University, decided to overrule the African and African-American studies department’s unanimous decision to award tenure to Professor Morgan. Stanford then offered both scholars tenured faculty posts.

This January both Morgan and Bobo will join the department of African and African-American studies at Harvard. Bobo will hold a joint appointment in sociology.


Tracking the Progress of Black Enrollments at the Nation’s Highest-Ranked Law Schools

The nation’s leading law schools are where the top law firms in the nation recruit their associates. These law schools also produce the clerks for the nation’s Supreme Court judges. Tracking black progress at these educational institutions is an important barometer measuring how blacks are faring in reaching the top echelon of the legal profession.

Over the past decade only five of the nation’s 15 highest-ranked law schools showed an increase in their enrollment percentage of blacks. Ten of the 15 posted declines in black enrollments. Black enrollments at the law school at New York University climbed from 5.6 percent in 1997 to 8.6 percent in 2007. In raw numbers, black enrollments at the NYU law school increased from 74 in 1997 to 124 in 2007, an increase of 68 percent.

Dean Richard Revesz of the New York University law school told JBHE that “a diverse student body has been and continues to be a priority.” Dean Revesz says that a scholarship program for low-income students and extensive recruitment efforts at black colleges and universities are responsible, in part, for their success in increasing black enrollments.

Harvard University ranks second in increasing black enrollments over the past decade. The percentage of blacks in the student body at Harvard Law School increased by nearly two percentage points. There were 153 black students at Harvard Law School in 1997. In 2007 there were 190 black students enrolled at the law school, an increase of 24 percent.

Elena Kagan, dean of Harvard Law School, told JBHE, “We are seeing an ever stronger black applicant pool, which allows us to identify an increasing number of black students who we think will make Harvard Law School a better place. We are also doing quite well on our yield of admitted black students.”

The only other high-ranking law schools to show an increase in their percentage of black students over the past decade were Duke University, the University of Virginia, and Northwestern University.



Columbia University Study Finds Blacks With High Levels of Education and Income Are More Likely to Report Being Victims of Racial Discrimination

A new study led by researchers at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University finds that African Americans with large incomes and high levels of education are more likely than other blacks to have reported experiencing racial discrimination. Luisa N. Borrell, the lead author of the study and an assistant professor of epidemiology at Columbia, concludes that “African Americans with a higher socioeconomic position may report more discrimination because they are more exposed to situations in which they are discriminated, or they may be more aware of subtle forms of discrimination.”

The study also found that African Americans who reported being the victims of racial discrimination were more likely to currently use tobacco and alcohol. Also, the victims of racial discrimination were more likely than other African Americans to have ever used marijuana or cocaine. The researchers concluded, “Substance use may be an unhealthy coping response to perceived unfair treatment.”

Professor Borrell holds a professional degree in dentistry and a master’s degree in public health from Columbia University. She also earned a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan.


Study Finds That Highly Educated Black Women Are More Likely Than Their Less Well Educated Black Peers to Be Victims of Domestic Abuse

Kameri Christy-McMullin, a white professor of social work at the University of Arkansas, recently completed a study of data from the National Crime Victimization Survey. She found that black women with a college education were considerably more likely to be victims of domestic abuse than black women who had not completed high school.

Professor Christy-McMullin believes that many black men are threatened by women who have a higher education than they do. In most of these cases, the women are the principal providers in the relationship. In order to reassert control over the relationship, black men may resort to physical abuse.

Another factor affecting the statistics, according to Christy-McMullin, is that black women with a lower education are less willing to report abuse. Many lower-income black women do not trust the police. They also may be reluctant to report the abuse for fear of sending their husbands to prison, which would result in the loss of an income producer for the family. Black women with a higher education are more financially independent and, for the most part, do not rely on their spouses for economic support. Therefore, they may be more willing to accept the possibility of life on their own.


New Academic Program in Corporate Diversity Management at Virginia Tech

A new undergraduate academic program on diversity in business is being offered at the Pamplin College of Business on the campus of Virginia Tech. The minor degree program “aims to help students develop ideas around issues of gender, race, age, and cultural difference within a corporate context,” says Mary Connerly, associate professor of management and director of the Business Diversity Center at Virginia Tech.

The minor degree program will include three new courses, two courses revamped with a diversity focus, and either field studies or an internship that deals with issues of diversity in the workplace. Professor Connerly hopes to enroll between 40 and 45 students each year in the program.


Civil Rights Icon Appointed to Key Administrative Post at the University of Tennessee

Rita Sanders Geier was named associate to the chancellor at the University of Tennessee. In this position she will be in charge of intercultural programs and implementing the university’s diversity plan. She was also appointed a senior fellow at the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy at the university.

Geier was the executive counselor to the commissioner of the Social Security Administration in Washington, D.C.  A graduate of Fisk University, Geier holds a master’s degree from the University of Chicago and a law degree from Vanderbilt University.

In 1968 Geier was a 23-year-old faculty member at historically black Tennessee State University when she filed a federal lawsuit against the state system of higher education. Eventually the suit was settled and the Geier Consent Decree provided $77 million for efforts to desegregate the state university system.


Business Casual Dress Code Instituted at Paul Quinn College

Paul Quinn College is a historically black educational institution in Dallas. The college was founded by the African Methodist Episcopal Church and retains an affiliation with the church today. There are about 800 students on campus, almost all of whom are black.

Paul Quinn’s president Michael J. Sorrell has instituted a new dress code for students on campus. Between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, all students will be required to dress in “business casual” attire. This mean that students are not permitted to wear jeans, flip-flops, T-shirts, tank tops, or sneakers.

President Sorrell states, “We are charged with the responsibility of preparing our students to assume a leadership role in business, and we can no longer pretend that their attire isn’t one aspect of that preparation.”

Sympathetic to the fact that the new dress code might be difficult for some low-income students, Sorrell sought out corporations and individuals to donate appropriate clothes that can be used by students.

A student who violates the dress code will be required to do community service. A second violation will require the student to join President Sorrell’s Saturday Morning Running Club.


10.8%  The percentage of all white Americans who did not have health insurance coverage in 2006.

20.5%  The percentage of all African Americans who did not have health insurance coverage in 2006.

source: U.S. Census Bureau

Black Enrollments on the Rise at the University of Colorado

In recent years the University of Colorado at Boulder has been plagued by a number of incidents of racial hate. As a result, the number of blacks in the first-year class at the university was 66 in both 2004 and 2005. Officials at the university took steps to increase black enrollments. University president Hank Brown went to black churches in Denver to recruit students. African-American students at the university were employed to write letters to prospective black students to encourage them to apply to the university. Officials at the university met with local community and professional groups to discuss ways in which black students could be encouraged to apply.

The efforts seem to be bearing fruit. There are 102 black freshmen on campus this year, up 55 percent from two years ago and up 24 percent from a year ago.




Claflin University, the historically black educational institution in Orangeburg, South Carolina, received a $297,034 grant from the U.S. Department of Education for its Upward Bound program in mathematics and the sciences.

Howard University, the historically black educational institution in Washington, D.C., received a three-year, $2.2 million grant from the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration for its pediatric dentistry residency program. The grant will provide funds for scholarships for six first-year and six second-year dentistry residents.




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