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The Chronicle of Higher Education
Wednesday, April 7, 1999

Black Educators See Many Obstacles to African Americans' Access to College

By KENNETH MA

Attacks on affirmative action, along with policies that restrict remedial classes at public colleges, are limiting African Americans' access to higher education, leaders of a national association of historically black colleges said at the group's annual meeting Tuesday.

Policy decisions are raising admissions standards and are eliminating remedial programs at four year colleges "in ways that will disproportionately affect blacks," said Henry Ponder, the president and chief executive of the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education. "And when you do that, the black youngsters are going to have problems."

Mr. Ponder said the bans on affirmative action in California and Texas had hurt black enrollment. He told the audience that he was fearful that Michigan, which produces many black college graduates, may also decide to wipe out affirmative action.

In his speech, Edward B. Fort, chairman of the organization and chancellor of North Carolina A&T State University, criticized the National Collegiate Athletic Association's freshman-eligibility criteria, which a federal judge declared last month to be discriminatory. Mr. Fort said that the rules, which require athletes to meet certain standardized-test scores and grade-point averages in order to compete, impeded the ability of black students to participate in sports. While their goal was to raise graduation rates, he said, the rules also prevented black athletes from obtaining scholarships and enrolling in college.

Any attempt to raise college-admissions standards falsely assumes that black Americans have had the same educational opportunities as other races before they get to college, Mr. Fort said. "When one is behind in a race, particularly if one is African-American, then one must run faster than those that are ahead, just to simply catch up."


Copyright © 1999 by The Chronicle of Higher Education