Finally, Some Much Needed Help for Low-Income College Students

Last week President Bush signed into law the College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007. The bill provides for a $11.4 billion increase in funding for the Pell Grant program over the next five years. Pell Grants are reserved exclusively for low-income students. About one quarter of all Pell Grant recipients are African Americans.

The new program will push the maximum Pell Grant award from its present level of $4,310 to $5,400 in 2012. This is the first significant increase in the maximum Pell Grant award since President Bush took office.


“We should be able to to listen to views with which we don’t agree and to debate them in a civil way.”

Judith Ryan, Robert K. and Dale J. Weary Professor of German and Comparative Literature at Harvard University, commenting on the decision by the University of California at Davis to rescind a speaking invitation to former Harvard President Larry Summers. Faculty on the Davis campus objected to Summers’ address because “he has come to symbolize gender and racial prejudice in academia.” At Harvard, Professor Ryan was one of the most vocal opponents of Summers.


The Large Racial Gap in Academic Qualifications of SAT Test Takers

The large racial scoring gap on the SAT and ACT college admission tests is due in part to a wide racial gap in the academic qualifications of the test takers. Data from The College Board shows that 60 percent of white students who took the SAT were ranked in the top 20 percent of their high school classes. This compares to 41 percent of black test takers. Some 48 percent of white students who took the SAT report that their high school grade point average was in the A range. This compares to only 23 percent of black test takers. The mean high school grade point average for all white students who took the SAT was 3.40. For blacks, the figure was 3.00. These figures alone explain a large portion of the racial scoring gap on the SAT.


Debt Can Be a Major Problem for Graduates of Black Colleges

As we have stated often in JBHE, money is the greatest barrier to increased opportunities for higher education among African Americans. Many black students forgo higher education because of their inability to pay tuition, the unavailability of sufficient financial aid, or the unwillingness to accumulate a large amount of debt.

New figures published by U.S. News & World Report show the debt problem is particularly acute at two historically black colleges. At Bennett College for Women in Greensboro, North Carolina, virtually all students who graduate from the institution have accumulated debt. And the average debt load is $32,508, the third-highest level among all liberal arts colleges in the nation. Some 94 percent of all graduates of Morehouse College leave school with some debt. The average debt accumulated by Morehouse graduates is $27,000, which ranks tenth among all liberal arts colleges in the nation.

In contrast, only 26 percent of students who graduate from Princeton University have any debt whatsoever. And for those who do have debt, the average is under $5,000.


A Major Surge in Black First-Year Enrollments at Bates College

In 2006 there were only nine black first-year students at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine. They made up a mere 1.8 percent of the incoming class. Bates’ remote location far from major black population centers have made it difficult for the college to attract large numbers of black students.

But this year Bates reports tremendous progress. There are 21 black freshmen on campus this year, an increase of 133 percent from a year ago. Blacks are nearly 5 percent of this year’s freshman class.

JBHE asked Wylie Mitchell, dean of admissions at Bates College, how they were able to more than double the number of black first-year students. He told us, “Some of the strategies that contributed to our success included increased travel to more multicultural schools, greater participation in college fairs that serve more students of color, and creating partnerships with community-based organizations that serve students of various cultural and ethnic backgrounds.” He also noted that the college conducted “proactive and assertive financial aid outreach, targeted phone-a-thons with a multicultural focus, postcard-writing campaigns, and on-campus open house programs.” The college also made a more pronounced effort to establish relationships with guidance counselors at high schools with large numbers of black students, and hosted more admitted student receptions.


Texas A&M Toots Its Own Horn on Racial Diversity But There’s Not Much to Celebrate

A headline in The Battalion, the student newspaper at Texas A&M University, reads “Enrollment, Diversity Up at Texas A&M.” When we read further we find that there are 1,419 black students enrolled on campus this year, which would seem to the casual reader a large number.

But when you do the math, you find that these 1,419 black students make up only 3 percent of the entire student body at Texas A&M. Further investigation finds that although overall enrollments are up by more than 1,200 students this year, the number of black students on campus is down. There are 17 fewer African-American freshmen this year than in 2006.

The positive diversity figures talked about in the newspaper headline are the result of a record number of Hispanic students on campus. There are nearly 5,300 Hispanic students at the university, making up 11.4 percent of the student body.

Blacks make up 11.5 percent of the population in Texas and Hispanics are 32 percent of the population. So each group holds about one third as many places at Texas A&M as would be the case if population parity prevailed. Texas A&M is a state-operated university.



Calls for the Renaming of Two Buildings on the Campus of Oklahoma State University That Honor the Architect of Jim Crow Segregation in the State

Two buildings on the campus of Oklahoma State University in Stillwater are named after former Governor “Alfalfa” Bill Murray. Murray served as Oklahoma governor from 1931 to 1935 during the height of the Great Depression. Murray was a race-baiting politician and is generally considered the architect of Jim Crow in Oklahoma. He pushed through the infamous grandfather clause which effectively disenfranchised black voters in the state.

Earl Mitchell, a professor emeritus at Oklahoma State who is African American, is calling for the university to change the name of the buildings.


Colorado Teenager Becomes the Youngest African-American Female Ever to Enroll at an Ivy League College

Brittney Exline is 15 years old. This fall she enrolled as a freshman student at the University of Pennsylvania. As far as we can determine, she is the youngest African-American female ever to enroll at an Ivy League university.

Exline, who is from Colorado Springs, began to read at age 2. When she took an IQ test at age 6, she scored a 185. A score of 140 is considered genius level. By the sixth grade she was three years ahead of children her own age. Fluent in German, she finished the most advanced course in mathematics at her high school when she was 13. This year she traveled to Cambridge to take summer courses at Harvard in anthropology and education and to demonstrate to her parents that she was capable of successfully making the transition to college.

This accomplished teenager does not spend all her time studying. Exline is a gifted dancer and has won two teenage beauty pageants.


Blacks Are Making Significant Progress in Attainments of Two-Year Community College Degrees

Normally JBHE concentrates its research on black progress at four-year colleges and universities as well as in graduate education. But community colleges are also an important part of higher education, particularly for African Americans. About 42 percent of all African-American enrollments in higher education are at the nation’s two-year community colleges. For whites, the figure is 35.5 percent.

Blacks have made significant progress in attainment of two-year associate’s degrees. In 2005 more than 86,000 African Americans were awarded two-year degrees. This is more than double the number from 15 years ago.

Two-year associate’s degree awards are important. Census data shows that blacks with some college or a two-year associate’s degree significantly increase their earning power over blacks with only a high school diploma.



Derrick Alridge was named director of the Institute for African-American Studies in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Georgia. Alridge is an associate professor of lifelong education, administration and policy at the university. Alridge holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Winthrop University. He earned his doctorate at Penn State. He has been on the University of Georgia faculty since 1997.

Amelia Ross-Hammond was appointed to a seat on the Virginia Council on the Status of Women. She is a professor of music and the coordinator of the service learning and civic engagement program at Norfolk State University.

Jessica B. Harris, a professor of English at Queens College of the City University of New York, is spending the current semester as the Ray Charles Endowed Professor of African-American Material Culture at Dillard University. The chair was established with a $1 million donation from the estate of the late soul singer.

Francoise Nicole Hamlin was appointed assistant professor of Africana studies at Brown University. She is a graduate of the University of Essex in England and holds a master’s degree from the University of London and a Ph.D. in African-American and American studies from Yale University. Dr. Hamlin is currently on sabbatical and will begin teaching at Brown in the fall of 2008.

Jeffrey D. Carr Sr. was named associate vice president for student development at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego, California. He was a faculty member in the School of Education at National University. Dr. Carr is a graduate of Mississippi College. He holds a master’s degree from Loyola Marymount University and an educational doctorate from the University of San Francisco.

King Davis has announced that he will step down as executive director of the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health at the University of Texas. He will return to his position as Robert Lee Sutherland Endowed Professor in Mental Health and Social Policy in the School of Social Work at the University of Texas.

King holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in social work from California State University at Fresno and a Ph.D. in social policy and management from Brandeis University.



U.S. News Ranks the Black Colleges

Despite widespread criticism of its college and university rankings, U.S. News & World Report has learned that issues of its magazine that contain these rankings are big sellers. Therefore it has expanded the number of rankings that it publishes. Now in addition to ranking colleges, graduate programs, and hospitals, for the first time the magazine is publishing its ratings of the best historically black colleges and universities.

It comes as no surprise that Spelman College in Atlanta was rated the top black college. Spelman is the highly regarded college for black women with a stellar academic reputation, superior graduation rate, and highly selective admissions. Howard University in Washington came in second place in the rankings followed by Hampton University, Morehouse College, and Fisk University. Also in the top 10 black colleges are Tuskegee University, Claflin University, Xavier University, Dillard University, and Johnson C. Smith University.

In eleventh place overall, Tennessee State University was the highest-ranking state-operated black college.


Four Blacks Win MacArthur Foundation Genius Awards

Each year the Chicago-based MacArthur Foundation presents $500,000 awards to about two dozen scholars and artists. These so-called genius awards come with no strings attached, permitting the winners to pursue their work without worrying about paying their bills.

This year, of the 24 recipients, four blacks — all college graduates — won MacArthur grants. One is a tenured professor at Johns Hopkins University and another is a guest lecturer this semester at the Yale School of Drama.

Here is a brief biographical sketch of each African American winner:

Lisa Cooper is a professor in the department of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore. A native of Liberia, Professor Cooper is a graduate of Emory University and received her medical degree at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She also holds a master’s degree in public health from Johns Hopkins University.

Dr. Cooper has conducted extensive research into deficiencies in doctor/patient communications and how this might contribute to racial health disparities.

Corey Harris is a guitarist, songwriter, and blues performer. A graduate of Bates College in Maine, Harris has performed around the world. He has recorded seven albums including his most recent Zion Crossroads.

Whitfield Lovell is an artist from New York City. A graduate of the Cooper Union School of Art, he is known for his charcoal portraits on walls, fences, and barrels. Lovell has taught at the School of Visual Arts in New York City and at Rice University.

Lynn Nottage is a playwright from Brooklyn, New York. Her most notable play to date, Intimate Apparel, is the story of a young black seamstress in early twentieth-century New York. Nottage is a graduate of Brown University and holds a master’s degree from the Yale School of Drama. She is spending this current semester as a guest lecturer at Yale.



Survey Finds Positive News About Race Relations on the Campus of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock

In a wide-ranging survey of the racial climate on campus, the Institute of Government Survey Research Center at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock found that 91 percent of all students agreed with the statement, “The atmosphere in my classes makes me feel I belong.” Ninety percent of both blacks and whites said that students were respectful of other students from different racial or ethnic groups. Nearly 29 percent of the students surveyed were African Americans.

Three quarters of all students said they had not witnessed any race-related tensions while on campus. However, blacks were twice as likely as whites to report what they felt was unfair treatment. Sixteen percent of blacks said they felt they needed to change their appearance or their pattern of speech in order to fit in on campus. A majority of both black and white students said they thought racial and ethnic diversity added to their educational experience.

Blacks are 32 percent of the student body on the Little Rock campus.


New Video Game Will Feature Football Teams From Black Colleges

In 2006 EA Sports Madden NFL 06 was the nation’s top-selling video game with sales of more than 1.8 million units. The company has an exclusive contract with the National Football League so other game makers cannot use images of players, coaches, and stadiums that are part of the NFL.

But Nerjyzed Entertainment, an African-American-owned firm based in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, is trying to capitalize on the popularity of football video games by releasing BCFx: Black College Football Experience. The game, scheduled to be released next month, will feature more than 40 football teams from historically black colleges. Included in the game will be features on the world-renowned marching bands fielded by several black colleges.


Bowling Alley That Prompted Protests Leading to the Orangeburg Massacre Four Decades Ago Closes Its Doors

In February 1968 Harry Floyd, the owner of the All Star Bowling Lanes in Orangeburg, South Carolina, hung a sign in the window which read, “For Whites Only.” Students at nearby South Carolina State University, a historically black educational institution, mounted civil rights protests against the establishment. On the night of February 8, students marched from the bowling alley back to campus. There they were met by South Carolina state troopers. Although the events which provoked the confrontation are disputed, the troopers opened fire on the crowd of protesters killing three black students and wounding another 27 protesters. The event has become 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 the bowling alley that prompted the protest has closed its doors. Recently known as the All Star Triangle Bowl, the establishment was owned by the same family that had been the proprietor in 1968. In 1996 the bowling alley was added to the National Register of Historic Places.


370  Number of black men who earned medical degrees in 2005.

713  Number of black women who earned medical degrees in 2005.

source: U.S. Department of Education


Jazz Institute Moves From Los Angeles to New Orleans in an Effort to Revitalize Jazz in the Crescent City

The Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance has relocated from the University of Southern California to Loyola University in New Orleans for the next four years. This graduate level program for performing jazz artists hopes to revitalize the institution of jazz in New Orleans. In addition to its two-year, tuition-free program for students of jazz, the institute plans to start jazz education programs in the New Orleans public schools and to act as a magnet to bring back jazz musicians and enthusiasts who left the city in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.



In Memoriam

Curtis H. Sykes (1930-2007)

Curtis H. Sykes, chair of the Black History Commission of Arkansas, died last month at a hospital in Little Rock from complications of diabetes. He was 76 years old.

As a boy, Sykes lived in North Little Rock. The children of his Chinese neighbors were permitted to attend the nearby white school. But Sykes was obliged to attend an all-black school in another section of the city. He became interested in the history of race relations in this country. By learning history, he believed, he could better understand how blacks had come to be treated as outcasts in society.

Sykes was a graduate of Arkansas Baptist College. In 1962 he became the first African American to earn a master’s degree at Harding University in Searcy, Arkansas. He also had a second master’s degree from Texas College.

Sykes spent much of his professional career as a high school principal in Little Rock. At the time of his death he lived in a home two blocks from where he was born.



California State University San Bernardino was given the Diversity Award from the nonprofit organization Minority Access Inc. in recognition of the university’s efforts to recruit, retain, and graduate minorities who majored in biomedical research.

John Hope Franklin, James B. Duke Professor Emeritus of History at Duke University, received the Records of Achievement Award from the Foundation for the National Archives.



Spelman College, the historically black liberal arts college for women in Atlanta, received a $2.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation. The money will be used for program enhancements to Spelman’s curriculum in informatics.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is granting 14 historically black colleges and universities a combined total of $8.4 million to revitalize neighborhoods surrounding their campuses. The grants range from $584,600 to $600,000. The black colleges receiving the grants are:

LeMoyne-Owen College
Winston-Salem State University
Clinton Junior College
Benedict College
South Carolina State University
Texas Southern University
Tennessee State University
Tuskegee University
Johnson C. Smith University
Coppin State University
Hinds Community College
Southern University, Shreveport
Rust College
Dillard University

Dillard University, the historically black educational institution in New Orleans, received a $2 million grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York to help it rebuild from the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Xavier University, another historically black educational institution in the flood-ravaged city, received a $4 million grant to aid in its recovery.

The grants will be used to recruit new faculty and students and to provide student financial aid.



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