State's college desegregation efforts called adequate Md. official says nearly finished plan will meet Supreme Court tests.

April 17, 1991|By Melody Simmons | Melody Simmons,Evening Sun Staff

A state education official says Maryland's efforts to desegregate its colleges and universities are adequate and will enable the state to meet any guidelines set as a result of a pending U.S. Supreme Court review of the issue.

Jeffrey Welsh, spokesman for the Maryland Higher Education Commission, said yesterday that administrators are working with a Washington civil rights law firm to complete a five-year desegregation plan that was ordered in 1985 by a U.S. District Court judge.

That plan was due last December but the commission received an extension until May, Welsh said. The plan is made up of desegregation reports from all state institutions that are submitted to the MHEC, which in turn reports to the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights.

The Supreme Court this week agreed to hear arguments on whether Mississippi has done enough to desegregate its colleges and universities since the 1960s, when federal officials were called on to enforce a court order to admit black student James Meredith to the all-white University of Mississippi.

Welsh said the Mississippi case could force establishment of guidelines on how states should enforce desegregation plans and promote equality among students.

At Maryland's public institutions, Welsh said, great effort has been made over the past five years to increase enrollment of black students and counsel them to remain in college.

"If the U.S. Supreme Court rules in favor of Mississippi, then any court would agree that Maryland has done more than its fair share since the agreement in 1985," Welsh said.

Welsh said the freshman enrollment for black students has increased to 13.4 percent from 10.1 percent in 1985, and historically black institutions such as Morgan State University and Coppin State College have made efforts to recruit whites.

In addition, the number of black high school students who go to college has increased since 1985, Welsh said.

For the fifth consecutive year, enrollments at the state's historically black colleges have risen so much that they lead the state in enrollment increases, MHEC figures show. Coppin State's enrollment increased by 23 percent, or 298 full-time students, while Bowie State increased its enrollment by 16.7 percent. At Morgan State University, enrollment jumped 8.7 percent.

There are 259,598 students enrolled in state colleges and universities this year, MHEC statistics show.

The Mississippi case centers on a 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in September 1990 that Mississippi had met its goals of ending sanctioned segregation.

But documents revealed that disparities remain. Records show that 99 percent of the state's white college students were enrolled in historically white institutions during the 1985-86 school year, while 71 percent of the state's black college students were enrolled in historically black schools.

At the same time, the state was spending an average of $8,516 per student enrolled at the white institutions and $6,038 for each student at the historically black colleges.

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