The ebbing tide of black students at American colleges seems to be turning around. United States Department of Education studies show that colleges are reversing a trend that has persisted through the 1980s - a trend that saw fewer blacks attending institutions of higher learning although more blacks were completing high school.
Harvard University is among a number of schools that have held programs this spring to welcome future minority students.
William R. Fitzsimmons, Harvard's dean of admissions, says his office has mailed letters of acceptance to 214 blacks, the largest such number for a freshman class in the school's history. Blacks make up 10 percent of the 2,147 accepted to the freshman class at Harvard and its sister school, Radcliffe College, for fall, the dean says.
No student will be denied an education because of a lack of finances, Dean Fitzsimmons says. ``Our financial aid policy is critical in the broadening and strengthening of our applicant pool. We are one of the very last institutions in the country to be able to admit the best students regardless of financial need....''
Other schools also guarantee aid to black students with financial problems. For instance, Guilford College of Greensboro, N.C., provides a 100 percent aid package for minority students in need, says Betty Neal Crutcher, assistant to Guilford's president. ``We've learned that many black students don't attend college because their families just don't have the money,'' she says. ``Our job is to find and recruit the students who meet our scholastic standards. Our financial aid department will do the rest.''
Guilford has 54 black undergraduates enrolled, or 4.6 percent of its 1,177 students, and 33, or 6.9 percent, of its continuing education students, Ms. Crutcher says, and it expects more next fall.
Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass., has seen a 35 percent increase in black applicants. Says Robert Mitchell, director of public relations: ``If a student meets all our entrance qualifications, Brandeis will find the money to meet that student's needs. We provide a financial aid package that includes the whole range, from scholarships and grants to loans and work study.''
``When our applications from blacks increased from 96 last year to 127 this year, I wanted to know how we compare with other campuses,'' Mr. Mitchell says. ``So I sent out questionnaires to 20 schools around the nation.'' Among the 11 schools responding:
William and Mary of Williamsburg, Va., had 381 black applicants, up 52 percent; Clemson University, 436, up 51.4 percent; Georgia Tech, 844, up 37.3 percent; Rice University, 200, up 33 percent; Claremont College, 55, up 19.6 percent; Reed College, 40, up 11 percent; University of California at Los Angeles, 1,242, up 10.3 percent; Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 305, up 0.33 percent.
The Society Organized Against Racism (SOAR), a group of 21 schools of higher education, recently held a conference on ``Combating Racism: Strategies for Building Alliances,'' at the University of Rhode Island. Students joined with college administrators, faculty, and staff to present ideas on how they aimed to attract more minority students to their schools. These included:
Northeastern University in Boston (where SOAR headquarters is located) improved the treatment of minority students by campus security forces.
Connecticut College held racial awareness workshops.
University of Rhode Island incorporated the history of minority groups into the history curriculum.
Another college group, Campuses Against Racial Violence, promoted ``The Big Mix,'' a program that unites students, faculty, and administrators from campuses in the Northeast.
The program emphasizes the formation of a multiracial, multi-college network for mutual support and combined action to reduce the number of racist incidents on college campuses.
Elsewhere, Bridgewater (Mass.) State College has opened a Massachusetts hall of black achievement and plans to hold a conference on prejudice and discrimination in September.
Georgia Southern College has initiated a program to encourage blacks to enroll in its School of Education in an attempt to meet a shortage of black teachers in Georgia, Dean Jack Miller says.
Black children will make up 55 percent of Georgia's school population in 1990, making the need for black teachers great, he says.