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Equal Access To Colleges Still Off-Limits In South

Forty years after the Supreme Court outlawed segregated schools, blacks and Hispanics still lack equal access to public colleges and universities across the South, a private advocacy group said Wednesday.

High schools serving blacks and Hispanics often don’t offer college-preparation classes, the Southern Education Foundation said. Colleges rely heavily on admissions criteria, such as standardized tests, on which minorities don’t perform as well.

Whites and minorities still overwhelmingly attend different colleges. And blacks receive college diplomas at a lower rate than whites.

“Not one of the 12 states studied can demonstrate acceptable levels of desegregation in its higher education system,” said the study’s author, Robert Kronley.

Nevertheless, glimmers of change have emerged since a 1992 Supreme Court ruling that instructed Mississippi’s public universities to do more to achieve desegregation, Kronley said.

Kentucky has changed its school financing system to ensure that students at poor high schools can take college-prep classes. Mississippi and Florida ease minority students’ transfers from two-year community colleges to four-year universities. And North Carolina encourages minority undergraduates to consider graduate school.

But some of the group’s recommendations have little chance. The study calls for more higher education spending and more aid when states are cutting one and Congress is considering cutting the other.

It calls for more minority faculty and scholarships reserved for minority students as the nation argues over affirmative action.

And it concludes that universities fail to provide supportive atmospheres for minority students, even as nonminority students increasingly are criticizing special minority-support programs as discriminatory.

“We found that where the climate was good, (minority) students flourished,” said Ruby Martin, former secretary of administration in Virginia and a former attorney for the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.