Collegiate Times
December 4, 1987

Tech Uses Affirmative Action to Attract Black Students

Officials, However, Say Programs Ineffective in Struggle to Ethnically Balance University

Black Enrollment: Second of Three Articles
by Lauree Stroud

Virginia Tech is trying to increase its black student population by developing extensive programs in recruitment, financial aid, special tutoring and social support. These programs give blacks an advantage over other students, but regardless, administrators say Tech is not recruiting as many blacks as it would like.

Recruitment and Outreach

Glen Valentine, Tech's assistant director of admissions, said a major function of his job is to recruiit blacks from high schools.

"I sometimes go to college night programs, but I prefer to go during high school hours when students are there," Valentine said. "We correspond with black Tech students to encourage them to visit their high schools.

"The Corps of Cadets does this also," he said. "(College) students can talk about the real-life situation. The student is the best salesman of the university." Several yearly programs are planned at Tech to encourage blacks and other minorities to enroll.

Fall Orientation Day provides prospective black applicants within a 125-mile radius of the campus the opportunity to visit the campus to learn more about Tech. Fall Orientation weekend provides black students throughout Virginia, Washington, D.C. and surrounding states with an overnight stay in the dorms.

"We have a black orientation program in March or April to those offered admission," Valentine said. "The students stay in residence halls, eat in the dining halls, tour the campus and attend talks by the deans. Of those students who attend this orientation, 87 percent accept admission (to Tech)."

The university is involving black alumni in the recruitment and retention of black students, faculty and staff. Included in these activites are a Black Alumni weekend, an alumni mentor program and alumni speaker forums. Also, a black alumni chapter is being established in the Northern Virginia area.

"Tech realizes that the successful recruitment of black students requires early identification and development of those students' potential," states a 1986 Virginia Tech Equal Opportunity Affirmative Action report. The Equal Opportuity Affirmative Action program at Tech monitors the role of minorities and women at Tech, and helps those who are being discriminated against.

"(Tech) is implementing a series of community outreach programs that focus on providing younger students with the necessary academic and motivational skills needed to continue into higher education," the report states.

Tech has developed a program to identify and offer admission to black seventh graders. The students are monitored and must fulfill certain requirements as they continue through high school. One of these programs, the Alliance for Increasing Minority Success, is a cooperative venture between Tech and the Fairfax County Public Schools Area I.

Specific objectives of the AIMS program are: - to provide a means of financing higher education for families with liminted resources and to help families plan for financing their education; - to arouse greater interest in college through the involvement of industry, public schools and the university; and - to use the early admission plan as an incentive to attend Tech.

According to the report, a two-week summer program, called "What is Engineering?" is restricted to 40 minority students who are rising seniors in high school. The participants are contacted about admissions during their senior year.

Financial Aid

Tech loses many black students to out-of-state schools that offer better academic scholarships, according tothe EO/AA report. Tech is trying to obtain additional scholarship funds to attract more academically superior black students. "

Most black (Tech students), about 70 to 80 percent, are on some form of financial aid," Valentine said.

"More white students are on financial aid numerically, but not on a percentage basis." The EO/AA report states that most minority students entering the College of Engineering receive at least a $500 grant from the college in addition to any other aid they may receive.

Also, while most students must meet strict deadlines to turn in financial aid applications, minority students are considered at any time during the year. Minority students also are sent financial aid applications.

"Having one person coordinating (the minority financial aid program) is advantageous because there are so few blacks and the person in charge gets to know each student on an individual basis and can look over all the minority files," said Martha Harder, associate director for Tech's Athletic Aid program.

"The applications of white students are reviewed as aid becomes available, while the applications of blacks are reviewed as soon as they are submitted," she said. "This is especially true for those blacks applying for admission after the deadline."

The EO/AA report states, "Entering minority students are given as much grant-in-aid and as little work and loan aid as possible. After the first year, minority students are given preference in grant-in-aid, but their financial packages are more like those of other students."

Several Scholarships Are Offered Specifically to Black Students.

According to the report, University Academic Excellence Scholarships are awarded to the four most outstanding black applicants in the university. These renewable scholarships are available each year.

Thirty-two thousand dollars in Powell Scholarships were given to black Tech students in the 1986-87 academic year.

Engineering also has a special affirmative action plan. In this plan, several minority engineering students are offered full tuition and fees, room and board.

In addition, the college requires all engineering students to purchase IBM PC's. This requiremdnt means an additional $2,000 investment on the part of entering freshmen. Many minoirty students are offered free PC's as long as they remain in engineering and enroll in engineering courses.

Helping Blacks Attain Success at Tech

"The mainstreaming of black students into the overall university environment is an important component in improving retention," THE EO/AA report states. "The Summer Transition Program is designed to introduce black students, who have been admitted to the university, to the academic environment of Virginia Tech."

Through the STP program, black freshmen come to live at Tech six weeks before other freshmen, are taught study skills, participate in programs offered by University Counseling Services, enroll in English, math and chemisty or biology classes taught by regular professors and obtain support from peer group leaders and tutors.

"The goal of the university is to identify academic deficiencies of black students and to provide the necessary academic support" before the applicant enters Tech as a student, the report states.

Joyce Williams-Green, assistant to the provost, developed the Virginia Tech Academic Success Program. This program helps place black students in appropriate classes throigh testing and helps them to develop good study skills through free tutoring and study skills sessions, which have been specially added for all black students.

"A third intervention to address the academic deficiencies of black students is the special tutoring program designed specifically for black students, and sponsored by the Chemisty Department for students in the introduction to chemisty course," the report states.

"In addition to the V-TASP Program, Dr. Williams-Green develops and coordinates the Annual Black History Month celebration during which many activities, art displays, social events and commemorations are held," the report states.

"Dr. Williams-Green also began the Black American Students advisory Committee at Virginia Tech. she coordinates regular meetings of this commmittee, which attempts to investigate obstacles faced by black students," the report states.

"A lot of effort is being made, but we're not seeing much results," Valentine said. "There is an increase in black faculty, however.