More minority students are graduating from high school than ever before, yet fewer are enrolling in higher education, especially four-year colleges. Black educators are so concerned that they have made access to college a major part of their plans for the 1987-88 school year. The National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education (NAFEO) is scheduled to address this and other issues at its 12th National Conference on Blacks in Higher Education in Washington, D.C., which began yesterday and runs through Sunday.
This conference comes at a time when racial tensions seem to be rising on college campuses across America, when many black colleges are threatened with extinction because of dwindling funds, and when black students find themselves short of funds for an education.
``Implementing idealism,'' the theme of the conference, is not an easy task for a black student who comes from a family with a total income less than $10,000, says Harriet E. Schemiel. Ms. Schemiel is director of communications for the United Negro College Fund (UNCF), an association of more than 40 private black colleges.
``Young blacks fresh out of high school don't feel [they can] go to college,'' she says. She bases her comments on a new study, ``Access to College: the Impact of Federal Financial Aid Policies at Private Historically Black Colleges,'' cosponsored by the UNCF and the National Institute of Independent Colleges and Universities.
This report, from a study of students enrolled in 38 private black colleges, makes these points:
Students receiving financial aid come from families with an average income of $12,950.
Family and personal contributions to the student's education each year are $338 for students at black schools compared with $1,894 for those at all private colleges, and $548 for students at UNCF schools compared with $1,117 for students at all private schools.
Black students face a greater debt burden because they often have to borrow more.
NAFEO conferees are focusing on:
Black Colleges. Private black colleges are seeking to enroll more students but are finding it difficult because the federal government and some states are cutting back on grants to students. They are seeking more sources for funds to make up for the public funds lost.
Mainstream Campuses. During the past five years fewer blacks have enrolled in four-year programs. Two-year colleges are admitting more minority students, but more are dropping out of school there. And the dropout rate is high in predominantly white four-year colleges for blacks and other minorities.
Funding. Probably the major handicap that most black students face in going to college is a shortage of funds. Doubtful that they can acquire the money needed to earn a degree, they often decide to work full time and help their families.
Although NAFEO, the official organization of 106 historically and predominantly black colleges, is acting as host for the conference, educators from predominantly white campuses are participating.
Sessions on blacks on white campuses are expected to stir heated discussions because of racial incidents on several campuses recently.