Touring 13 black colleges

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

''See for yourself!''

That's the advice of Janice Withrow to black New England high school students who say they are looking for equal opportunity on a college campus.

Should a black college-bound student who lives in New England, which abounds with excellent institutions of higher learning - both public and private, expensive and not-so-expensive - consider attending a predominantly black college in the South?

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To back up her contention that the students should ''see for themselves,'' Mrs. Withrow has organized a tour of black colleges that this year visited 13 schools in Pennsylvania; Delaware; Washington, D.C.; Virginia; and North Carolina.

The week-long bus tour took place during the New England semester break. Cost was kept to a minimum ($175). Students making the trip were told that 75 percent of last year's tour group chose to attend a college visited on the tour.

Why the move out of New England?

Mrs. Withrow, education director for a community agency in the Boston area, initiated the tour three years ago after observing that black high school graduates were undecided about what to do with their lives after high school.

''A number of young people - and their parents, too - would come to me (for advice) on what to do about college,'' she says.

''They were not sure,'' she continued, ''that a Northern white university, even the great ones located in and around Boston, could provide the best education for a black child. On the other hand, they heard many negative reports about Southern black campuses.''

''Many black students, and parents too, feel that these young people need more social maturity, self-identity, and personal stability - needs more likely to be met at a Southern black college than at a Northern white school,'' Mrs. Withrow says.

These students also find role models on Southern campuses, she says. ''And at these schools they develop a camaraderie with their black peers that they do not find in New England,'' she adds.

She does not offer black colleges as panaceas for troubled urban black teen-agers, and she warns them they will see everything on the tour from modern buildings with updated equipment to rundown plants . But they also see lots of successful black people, from the college presidents to admissions officers and students.

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