Collegiate Times
December 1, 1987

School Officials Try to Explain Why
Few Negros Attending College

by Lauree Stroud

Minority students are being denied equal access to higher education in the state of Virginia, according to a report by the House Government Operations committee cited in the Oct. 15 issue of School Law News.

As an example of continuing segregation, the report shows that in 1985 the enrollment disparity increased from 8.67 to 20.7 percent in the state.

Glen Valentine, Virginia Tech's assistant director of admissions, said Tech does not have a quota for the number of negros admitted, but it does have a goal established by the General Office of Civil Rights and the State Council of Higher Education of Virginia. This goal is part of the Virginia plan to encourage integration of traditionally white and traditionally black institutions.

"SCHEV assigned Tech the goal to admit 490 black students, about 10 percent of the freshman class of less than 5,000," Valentine said. "Last year, of the 15,000 applicants, 1,000 black students applied for admission. Of the 9,000 students whom Tech offered admission, we offered admission to 650 blacks. Of the 4,200 students who accepted admission, only 221 were black.

This year's freshman class is about 5 percent black," he said.

A 1986 report by Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action at Tech states, "Two developing trends that are influencing Tech's recruitment are greater competition between universitites for academically strong black students (and) a decline in qualified black college-bound applicants."

Valentine said the percentage of blacks attending college is decreasing.

Annually, 14,000 black Virginians graduate from high school out of a total of 60,000 graduates. Only 30 pecent of those 14,000 go on to college, and not all to four-year schools, whereas 52 percent of white high school graduates go to college.

"What's going on in the high schools is the key," Valentine said. "Students need to be encouraged to prepare for college in the sixth, seventh and eighth grades because these are the years when students' SRA scores determine whether they will be placed on an academic or vocational track.

"In North Carolina, 65 percent of blacks in high school had not completed math beyond geometry," he said. "A student must complete three years of math to be considered at Tech."

Valentine also cited close family relationships as a reason for low black enrollment figures.

"For many young black people, there is pressure to stay close to home and take vocational courses and to work at a job after school hours," Valentine said. "The gangs and close association in neighborhoods also have a big influence."

Michell Holmes, an equal opportunity counselor, said black enrollment may be declining due to more active recruitment of high school students by the military. Also, black students may be going to schools that offer them better financial aid packages than Tech.

"Research reveals that one of the primary reasons black students do not enroll in college is the lack of financial assistance," the EO/AA report states.

Distance from home may also play a role in minorities' decisions about college.

"If you draw a line down the center of the state, there are more blacks on the eastern side of the state," Valentine said. "We surveyed the black applicants who did not accept our offer of admission and found that a major reason was the distance from home. It was such a long drive, that they didn't visit the campus."

Negro faculty recruitment also is a problem at Tech and other Virginia schools.

A 1986-87 faculty profile of Virginia's state-supported institutions of higher education found that Tech has seven black, full professors and 524 white, full professors. The university of Virginia has five black, full professors and 543 white, full professors. This does not include associate professors and other faculty members.