High-Ranking Universities Are Not Making Much Progress in Increasing Their Enrollments of Low-Income Students

Ten years ago Princeton University revolutionized the college financial aid world when it decided to provide full-tuition scholarship grants for all students from families with incomes below $40,000 a year. Princeton soon afterward eliminated loans for all students on financial aid and replaced these loans with scholarship grants.

Over the next several years, Harvard, the University of Virginia, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill eliminated student loans and/or greatly increased their financial aid packages for low-income students.

Over the past three years most of the other highly rated universities have made huge changes to their financial aid programs in order to keep pace with the leaders’ efforts to attract more low-income students.

But data obtained by JBHE from the U.S. Department of Education on recipients of Pell Grants at these high-ranking universities show that most of these educational institutions have not been successful in increasing the socioeconomic diversity of their student bodies. (Pell Grants are reserved for students who come from families with low incomes.) In fact, in the vast majority of cases, there is a smaller percentage of low-income students at these institutions than before the new financial aid programs were put into effect.

According to Pell Grant data, only four of the nation’s 30 highest-ranked universities had a larger percentage of low-income students in 2007 than was the case three years earlier in 2004. They are Harvard University, Princeton University, Vanderbilt University, and MIT. At Dartmouth College, the percentage of low-income students remained the same. But at 25 of the 30 highest-ranked universities, the percentage of the student body that came from low-income families declined from 2004 to 2007. And again, this was in a period when these universities had revamped their financial aid programs to make them more attractive to low-income students.

One of the main reasons for this trend is that these universities also made generous financial aid changes to help middle- and upper-middle-income students. For example, at Harvard, students who come from a family with an annual income of $180,000 are expected to pay only $18,000 of Harvard’s $50,000 annual comprehensive fee. At Yale, students from families with incomes of more than $200,000 are eligible for “need-based” financial aid. So more students from these upper-middle-income families are applying to these universities and these students tend to have better test scores and grades than students from low-income families.

The new financial aid packages targeting low-income students did nothing to increase the chances of these students gaining admission to these universities.

Note: Next week JBHE will report the progress of the nation’s leading liberal arts colleges in increasing the socioeconomic diversity of their campuses.


Award-Winning Student Newspaper at Howard University Is Back in Business

The Hilltop, the student newspaper at Howard University in Washington, D.C., stopped publishing its print edition last spring due to a budget shortfall. The newspaper had seen a sharp decline in advertising revenue. The paper owed its printer $48,000 and could not pay its bills. A scaled-back version of the newspaper was maintained online.

The newspaper was founded in 1924 when Zora Neale Hurston was one of its original editors. Twice it won awards from the Princeton Review as the nation’s best student newspaper.

But this fall, with increased funding from the university coupled with donations from the faculty and alumni, The Hilltop is back in business. It is the only student newspaper at a historically black college or university that is published every weekday. Fifteen editors and reporters are paid a small stipend for their work on the paper.

Readers can view the online edition of the newspaper by clicking here.


Are Unprepared Black Students Being Rushed Into Algebra?

In an effort to improve mathematics scores of students to meet goals set by the No Child Left Behind Act, school districts across the country are assigning more and more students to algebra classes in eighth and in some cases seventh grade. Students who take algebra in eighth grade are placed on a track leading to calculus in their senior year of high school.

But a study by the Brookings Institution finds that one third of all eighth-grade students are now taking algebra. However, the study found that many students are not prepared to take algebra in eighth grade and, as a result, mathematics scores on standardized tests have declined for students in these advanced classes.

The study, entitled The Misplaced Math Student: Lost in Eighth-Grade Algebra, finds that a large number of the low-achieving eighth-grade algebra students are either black or Hispanic. Critics of the report say that denying black students access to algebra in eighth grade will perpetuate racial inequality on the SAT and ACT college entrance examinations. But the authors of the study contend that placing unprepared students in courses where they are bound to fail is counterproductive. They believe that minority students who fail in early algebra will become discouraged and will lose their desire to learn.




• Helene A. Cameron was appointed director of career services at Fayetteville State University in North Carolina. She held a similar position at Winston-Salem State University.

• Jacqueline Howard-Matthews was appointed associate provost at Southern University in Baton Rouge. She was managing director of Bodeo Transformation Systems, a consulting firm. She previously served on the faculties of Spelman College and Clark Atlanta University.

Dr. Howard-Matthews is a graduate of Spelman College. She holds a master’s degree from Howard University and a Ph.D. in political science from Stanford University.

• Derita Ratcliffe was named senior associate athletics director at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. She was director of athletics at Kentucky State University.

• Karl Reid was appointed senior vice president of academic programs and strategic initiatives at the United Negro College Fund. He was associate dean of undergraduate education, assistant to the chancellor for diversity, and director of the Office of Minority Education at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Dr. Reid holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from MIT and an educational doctorate from Harvard University.

• Angie Whitmal was named academic dean of the junior and senior classes at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts. Last year she completed her Ph.D. in Afro-American studies at the University of Massachusetts, where she also taught courses in women’s studies.

Dr. Whitmal is a graduate of Loyola University of Chicago and holds a master’s degree from Northwestern University.

• Debra L. Haggins was appointed chaplain at Hampton University. She is the first woman to hold the position. She was the pastor of the Queen Street Baptist Church in Norfolk, Virginia.

Reverend Haggins is a graduate of Paine College in Augusta, Georgia. She holds master’s degrees from Old Dominion University and Virginia Union University. She is currently studying for a doctorate from Norfolk Theological Seminary.

• Denise Payton was named director of choral music at Fayetteville State University in North Carolina. She will also teach applied voice at the university. She had taught music in public schools.

Payton is a graduate of North Carolina A&T State University and holds a master’s degree from Fayetteville State University. She is currently pursuing a doctorate in music education at Boston University.



• J.W. Carmichael Jr., professor of chemistry at Xavier University in New Orleans, was awarded an honorary degree at the convocation ceremonies of Meharry Medical College. Dr. Carmichael was honored for his directorship of the pre-med program at Xavier which has sent more African-American students to medical school than any other undergraduate feeder institution.

• Larry E. Rivers, president of Fort Valley State University in Georgia, was named Community Man of the Year by the Trinity Missionary Baptist Church in Fort Valley, Georgia.

• James H. Ammons, president of Florida A&M University, was named Leader of the Year by Leadership Tallahassee, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for citizens of the city.

• Willie Jeffries was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Black College Hall of Fame in Atlanta. Jeffries, a graduate of South Carolina State University, was the first black head coach in major college football. In 1979 Jeffries was named head coach at Wichita State University.

• Julian Bond, the famed civil rights leader and now professor of history at the University of Virginia and chair of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, was given the Living Legend Award from the Library of Congress.

The Wide Gender Gap in African-American Graduate School Enrollments

Last week JBHE reported the surge in black enrollments in graduate school. There are now more than 170,000 black Americans enrolled in graduate programs. Black enrollments have grown at a rate of 8 percent a year, four times the overall enrollment growth rate.

But this good news is tempered by the huge and growing gender gap in graduate higher education. Over the past five years, black women have increased their enrollments in graduate school 10 percent each year. For black men, enrollments are up an average of 6 percent per year.

Overall, in 2007 black women made up 73 percent of African-American enrollments in graduate schools nationwide.


LeMoyne-Owen College Decides Interim President Is Best Man for the Job

Johnnie B. Watson was named president of LeMoyne-Owen College. He has served as interim president for the past two years. The college’s board of trustees stated that “a nationwide search did not identify a person the board thought could meet or exceed the leadership standard Watson has established for the college.”

However, the board vowed to reestablish a presidential search committee at the beginning of the year with the hope that a new president can be installed by June 2009.


“Robert Mugabe’s persistent acts of violence and his pattern of wanton disregard for human life leave Michigan State University no choice but to act.”

— from a resolution unanimously passed by the Michigan State University board of trustees revoking a 1990 honorary degree given to the Zimbabwe president


Students From Prairie View A&M University Build Park Honoring Emmett Till

Fifty-three years ago, an all-white jury acquitted two white men of the murder of 15-year-old Emmett Till in Money, Mississippi. The men, protected by their constitutional right of not being placed in double jeopardy, later admitted to the murder in an interview in Look magazine.

Till, a black teen from Chicago who was visiting relatives in Mississippi for the summer, was kidnapped and murdered reportedly because he whistled at a white married woman in a local store. Photographs of Till’s brutally beaten body were published in Jet magazine and, according to some historians, jump-started the civil rights movement.

Now a 20-acre park and nature trail named in honor of Till has opened in Glendora, Mississippi, a few miles north of where the murder occurred.

About 100 students from Prairie View A&M University in Texas volunteered their time this summer to build the nature trail and landscape the park. The university also contributed money to the project.



Study Finds That African-American College Students Are Seven Times as Likely as Their White Counterparts to Be Tested for HIV

A study by researchers at the University of Georgia’s College of Public Health found that college students are generally knowledgeable about the risks of HIV infection. But the study also found that students are less informed on the accuracy of HIV-testing techniques. Most HIV tests search for the antibodies that the body produces to combat the infection. But it can take three to six months for the antibodies to appear. During this time, HIV can still be transmitted to sexual partners.

The study found that African-American college students scored higher than white students on questionnaires measuring their knowledge of AIDS and HIV. The results also showed that African-American college students were seven times more likely than white college students to be tested for HIV.


Xavier University Produces Twice the Number of Bachelor’s Degrees in Physics Than Any Other Black College or University

The American Institute of Physics (AIP) reports that more than 5,300 students earned bachelor’s degrees in physics in 2006, the latest year for which data is available. The number of students earning bachelor’s degrees in physics has increased in each of the past seven years. African Americans earn about 1 percent of all bachelor’s degrees awarded in the field of physics.

The AIP report found that among all of the nation’s historically black colleges and universities Xavier University in New Orleans is the top producer of physics majors. An average of 16 black students earn bachelor’s degrees in physics each year at Xavier University. This is more than double the average number of physics majors at Benedict College, which ranks second among the black colleges and universities. Spelman College produces the third most physics graduates among the black colleges.


In Memoriam

Joseph Gayles Jr. (1937-2008)

Joseph Gayles Jr., a chemistry professor at Morehouse College who in the early 1970s helped write the grant proposal to establish the Morehouse School of Medicine, died from heart failure at his home in Atlanta. He was 71 years old.

Professor Gayles was a native of Birmingham, Alabama. He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Dillard University in New Orleans. He held a Ph.D. in chemistry from Brown University.

From 1977 to 1983, Dr. Gayles served as president of Talladega College in Alabama. From 1983 to his retirement in 1996, Gayles was vice president of institutional advancement.

Elizabeth W. Stone (1918-2008)

Elizabeth W. Stone, former professor of English at Howard University and former director of communication skills at the Howard University School of Law, has died from congestive heart failure at a hospital in Boca Raton, Florida. She was 90 years old.

Dr. Stone was a native of Washington, D.C., and attended the racially segregated Dunbar High School. She went on to earn a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in American literature from Howard University. She earned a second master’s degree in drama from the Catholic University of America. In 1956 Stone was awarded a Ph.D. in speech and drama from Columbia University.

After teaching English at Howard for nearly a decade, Professor Stone worked for the federal government for 20 years. She then returned to the academic world as an administrator at Howard University School of Law.

In 1960 Dr. Stone gave a speech seconding the nomination of John F. Kennedy at the Democratic National Convention. In 1977 she founded the advocacy organization Black Women’s Agenda.

Harold Barefoot Sanders Jr. (1925-2008)

Retired federal judge Harold Barefoot Sanders Jr. died at his home in Dallas of complications from an infection. He was 83 years old.

Before his appointment to the federal bench by President Carter in 1979, Sanders served in the Texas legislature and as U.S. deputy attorney general in the Johnson administration. In that capacity, he was the administration’s point man in winning support for the Voting Rights Act of 1965, legislation that enabled millions of African Americans to vote for the first time.

Sanders was a graduate of the University of Texas where he was elected student body president. He also earned his law degree at the University of Texas.

Sanders rode in the presidential motorcade in Dallas when President Kennedy was shot. He retired from the federal bench in 2006.


67%  Percentage of white parents of preschool children in 2007 who read to their children every day.

35%  Percentage of black parents of preschool children in 2007 who read to their children every day.

source: U.S. Department of Education



• Alabama A&M University, the historically black educational institution in Normal, received a $401,447 grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The grant will be used to establish weather recording stations throughout Alabama.

• Grambling State University, the historically black educational institution in Louisiana, received an $85,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice. The grant will be used for student and faculty training in forensic chemistry.

• North Carolina A&T State University, the historically black educational institution in Greensboro, received a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Education. The grant money will fund the university’s Project FIRE (Fostering Inclusive Responsive Educators) program, which will prepare teachers for special education assignments.

• Paul Quinn College, the historically black educational institution in Dallas, Texas, received a two-year, $500,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Education to enhance the college’s academic resources.

• Wayne State University’s Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights received a $250,000 grant from the Ford Motor Company.

• Fayetteville State University in North Carolina, received a three-year, $499,981 grant from the National Science Foundation. The grant will be used to study the effectiveness of online distance education programs in science, engineering, mathematics, and technology. The research will be under the direction of Lawrence O. Flowers, an assistant professor of microbiology at Fayetteville State.



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