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Opportunity Without Preference By: D.W. Miller
FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, October 28, 1998


Policy Review | November - December, 1998


WOULD ENDING RACIAL PREFERENCES in college admissions cripple educational opportunity for blacks and other minorities? Most of the U.S. education establishment clearly thinks so. Consider the stance of leading educators at the places where admission preferences are under fiercest attack. In the University of California system, whose regents voted two years ago to end preferences, a group of more than 50 professors called upon students and faculty members to boycott classes for two days in October to protest the "untenable educational environment" created by the regents’ decision. In Washington state, where voters face a ballot initiative in November to end preferences in all state institutions, University of Washington president Richard McCormick has said that such a policy would close selective colleges to all but "advantaged white men." And at the University of Michigan, which is being sued on the grounds of racial discrimination by several rejected white applicants, president Lee Bollinger claims the end of preferences will lead to a "return to segregation" in higher education.

Perhaps we would all see things this way, if preferential access to selective colleges were truly the only, or even the best, means of providing opportunity to blacks and other minorities. But this approach sends out a racist message that members of some racial and ethnic groups cannot compete on their own merits. And it may end up harming the educational prospects of the very groups that were supposed to benefit. The defenders of preferences have become so wedded to them that they overlook another, and better, approach to affirmative action.

This approach recognizes that the main engine of equal opportunity is achievement, and the best way to cultivate it is to raise the aspirations of minorities, demand excellence, reward talent and hard work, and try to clear away obstacles—in short, to foster a culture of accomplishment.


Do Preferences Work?
Racial preferences in admissions are the antithesis of achievement. Because such policies judge members of different ethnic groups by separate academic criteria, they devalue the idea of merit. At public entities they violate the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Constitution. And there is reason to question whether they have even achieved their purpose.

After generations of being denied equal educational opportunity, blacks have virtually caught up to whites in the attainment of a high-school education: About 86 percent of both groups have completed high school. About 45 percent of blacks enter college, compared with 55 percent of whites. But too many blacks are not reaching the finishing line: Among those who enroll at a four-year college, about 60 percent of black undergraduates fail to complete a degree within six years, versus 40 percent of whites.

As Stephan and Abigail Thernstrom conclude in their recent book, America in Black and White, "Affirmative action polices . . . did work to increase enrollments, but if the larger aim was to increase the number of African Americans who could successfully complete college, preferential policies had disappointing, even counterproductive, results." Scholars such as Thomas Sowell have long argued that pervasive racial preferences have actually harmed academic performance by creating a systematic "mismatching" of students with institutions for which they are not prepared. The risk was that many students admitted in this way end up dropping out, which not only interrupts their education but may inflict, in the Thernstroms’ words, a "crushing, humiliating personal defeat that may have lasting results."

Under admissions preferences, the nation’s more selective colleges have been admitting blacks with considerably lower SAT scores than white enrollees (see chart). These gaps may explain why black students are less likely than others to leave these selective institutions with a degree. At the University of California at Berkeley, the black-white gap in SAT scores reached nearly 290 points under preferences, which surely contributed to a disparity in dropout rates among 1986-89 matriculants of 42 percent for blacks versus 16 percent for whites. At most of the selective colleges about which we have test scores broken down by race, blacks are at least 50 percent more likely to leave without graduating.

Two former university presidents, William Bowen of Princeton and Derek Bok of Harvard, recently published a statistical study that purports to demonstrate the value of such preferences. In this study, the authors take a swing at the "mismatch hypothesis." After compiling data on 45,000 students enrolled in 28 selective colleges, they report that blacks attending the most elite schools among their sample were more likely to graduate than those at the less selective schools. From this they conclude that blacks admitted under preferences with lower grades and test scores than their classmates do not suffer from a mismatch of their abilities with the academic rigor of their alma mater.

The Thernstroms and others, however, have noted several flaws in that conclusion. First, Bowen and Bok never compare educational outcomes for those blacks who got preferences with those who would have been admitted without them. This may mask crucial differences in the groups’ fates. Bowen and Bok’s own data, however, are perhaps the most damning. The average black student in their sample scores in the bottom quarter of the class. Furthermore, even though graduation rates for blacks at the most selective institutions are high, they still experience a large disparity in their chances of graduating compared with whites at the same schools: 25 percent versus 14 percent. Blacks may be more likely to finish at these elite schools than elsewhere, it seems, but even there they are doing significantly less well there than their peers.


The Challenge Ahead

By fostering a culture of accomplishment rather than peddling preferences, universities will be better equipped to tackle some of the most pressing barriers to equal opportunity. First, our primary and secondary schools are failing to prepare all ethnic groups equally well for college-level work. This failure is reflected in the gap in average SAT scores between college-bound whites and blacks. This gap has narrowed over the last 20 years, but still remains at nearly 100 points on the verbal portion and more than 200 on the math portion. Remedial courses designed to compensate for the disparities in minority student preparation have shown mixed success.

Second, blacks are not being challenged to excel in fields that are financially and professionally rewarding. Although blacks represent about 12 percent of the U.S. workforce, they constitute only about 4 percent of doctors and occupy only 5 percent of jobs in technical fields like engineering, computer science, and scientific research. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, black undergraduates are significantly less likely than whites to major in engineering, biological sciences, or physical sciences, and more likely to major in the social sciences or the humanities. Among American Ph.D. recipients in 1996, according to the National Research Council, only about 1,300, or 5 percent, were African Americans. Most of those doctorates were in "soft" fields such as education, psychology, and humanities, while only 330 or so (25 percent) earned doctorates in science, math, or engineering. (By comparison, 77 percent of doctorates overall were awarded in those fields.)

Individual colleges can do more to ensure equal opportunity for minorities in higher education by replacing preferences with efforts to improve the chances that minorities will excel, graduate, and pursue careers in rewarding fields. This isn’t a radical idea: Even in universities that sanction racial preferences in admissions, it is possible to find models for fostering a culture of accomplishment among black students.

 

 

Widening the Doorway

The latest statistics from the National Science Foundation suggest that two-thirds of all black students who enter college intending to major in math or science will drop out of their programs. Studies suggest that a major leak in the pipeline of minorities into scientific fields occurs during so-called gateway courses, difficult introductory classes in subjects such as basic chemistry or advanced calculus that form the foundation for further study. Many students fail or drop out of these classes and end up switching majors or leaving school. Hence these classes are a major barrier to excelling in scientific fields. Any institution that successfully addressed this problem would quickly widen the doorway for minorities in scientific fields. Thanks to a math professor in Texas, we may have discovered how to do this.

Philip Uri Treisman, a mathematician and education researcher at the University of Texas at Austin (UT), has spent more than 20 years developing a highly effective approach to improving minority students’ performance in difficult introductory math courses. As a young graduate student at the University of California at Berkeley in the mid-1970s, Treisman began to investigate the well-known but poorly understood problem that black students in introductory calculus tend to get lower grades and drop out at higher rates than students from other ethnic groups. The result of his research is an approach, known by such names as "Math Workshop" or "Emerging Scholars," that has been duplicated in science and math departments across the country.

The results are compelling. From 1988 through 1997, nearly 800 University of Texas students participated in UT’s Emerging Scholars Program (ESP) for freshman calculus. Nearly 60 percent were black or Hispanic, and many of the rest were whites from rural high schools. In the program’s first seven years, about 80 percent earned a B or better in the two-semester freshman calculus sequence, which is the program’s measure of academic excellence. These grades were, on average, one-half to one whole letter grade higher than those students not in ESP (even though their level of academic preparation was very similar). Although the program has never had the funding to study whether the program increases the number of minorities majoring in math or the sciences over time, the six-year graduation rate for blacks and Hispanics in the program equals the 64 percent rate for UT students overall, far higher than for UT blacks overall (40 percent) and for UT Hispanics overall (45 percent).

Treisman got similar results at U.C.-Berkeley before moving to Texas. A study of 646 black undergraduates between 1973 and 1984 showed that ESP students outperformed their non-ESP peers with similar or better scores on standardized tests. From 1978 to 1982, 54 percent of ESP students earned an A or a B, compared to only 16 percent of non-ESP students. More importantly, the proportion of ESP students who had graduated from college or were still enrolled—remember, the workshop only covers freshman calculus—was 64 percent compared to 41 percent of their non-workshop peers. Throughout their college careers, the ESP participants generally were more likely to develop academically oriented peer groups, spent more time on homework, and stayed in school at higher rates than those who had not. Another study of minority engineering students enrolled in the math workshops between 1983 and 1995 showed that these students matched the grades of non-minority engineers and exceeded those of minorities not in the workshops by a third of a letter grade on average.

The standard introductory calculus course at Texas consists of three one-hour lectures and two one-hour classes per week. Each summer, the Emerging Scholars Program identifies those incoming freshmen who have expressed an interest in a major requiring math and who belong to one of the targeted groups historically underrepresented in math: minorities, women, and rural residents. ESP students attend the lectures with the other students in the course, but supplement them with three two-hour sessions of group study, in sections of no more than 24 students (rather than 40 in the regular classes). Otherwise, ESP students take the same exams and are graded by the same criteria as other students in class.

In these sessions, ESP students work on problem sets under the guidance of teaching assistants. These problem sets are not remedial; they are designed to be particularly difficult in order to reinforce fundamental concepts, expose weaknesses in students’ understanding, and encourage collaboration among students, both in and outside of class.

A major leak in the pipeline of minorities into scientific fields occurs during difficult introductory classes that form the basis of further study.

In a typical session, students work alone for 30 minutes or so before coming together in teams to compare work. The TA offers hints and suggestions when necessary. The problem sets have several purposes: to introduce students to challenging, enriching material that ultimately improves their performance; to instill an appreciation for math that might induce them to major in the subject or consider a career in a math-based subject; to generate confidence in their abilities; to prompt intensive mentoring from more advanced students and faculty. Most important, it teaches them to form a community of fellow learners to get through difficult subjects.

 

 

Cramming Alone

It might seem obvious that more rigorous and personalized pedagogy will produce superior performance. But minority students in particular seem disproportionately likely to benefit from this approach.

As a Berkeley graduate student in the 1970s leading a class section in freshman calculus, Treisman found that during the previous decade, 60 percent of blacks who had enrolled in and completed freshman calculus at Berkeley—never mind the dropouts—received Ds or Fs. So he set out to explain why black students were significantly more likely to fail this critical introductory class.

None of the usual chestnuts for explaining black failure at Berkeley seemed to hold up: low income, low motivation, inadequate preparation, or lack of family support. But when they compared the academic behavior of blacks with those of Chinese Americans, an ethnic group with high grades on average, they identified one thing that distinguished the two groups: The blacks almost invariably studied alone. By contrast, most of the Chinese American students got together regularly in the evenings, perhaps over dinner, and compared homework assignments. They offered each other advice, practiced with old exams, and ascertained where each of them stood in class grading. "They had constructed something like a truly academic fraternity," Treisman has said. Black students, says Treisman, did their homework alone, studied only as much as professors told them to—and had no idea where they stood in the class.

Based on this insight, Treisman created a "workshop" approach that tries to recreate the benefits of integrating academic life with social life—of joining a "community of scholars." In lieu of class sections, workshop students spend six hours a week together, poring over difficult but stimulating problems and probing each other’s work. With the help of peers and tutors, they learn to recognize what they don’t understand, correct it, and build upon it before the unceasing accumulation of new concepts overwhelms them.

At least a dozen other universities have adapted the approach to their own needs, and well over a hundred have trial programs of some sort based on the approach. At the University of Kentucky at Lexington, for instance, an ESP-type program for freshman calculus called "MathExcel" has produced similar benefits for workshops comprised mostly of minorities, women, and students from rural high schools. In every semester from 1990 to 1996, the average calculus grades of MathExcel participants exceeded that of non-workshop students; in six semesters out of eight, the difference was a full letter grade or more. The proportion of MathExcel students failing or dropping out—essentially suspending their pursuit of a degree in math, engineering, or physical sciences, among other fields—was generally under 10 percent, much lower than the failure rate for their counterparts of similar skills.

A longitudinal study in the 1980s at California Polytechnic University at Pomona, a commuter school with a lot of Latino students, also demonstrated academic improvement among its math workshop students. Not only were minority students in the ESP far less likely than other minority calculus students to drop out of school or switch majors (15 percent versus 52 percent), but ESP students were also less likely to have to repeat any of the courses in the three-semester calculus sequence, saving students and taxpayers extra tuition fees and financial-aid funds. Fewer than one-fifth of ESP students needed five or more quarters to complete the sequence, versus 46 percent of other minority students.

The mathematics-workshop model has been applied to gateway courses in other sciences as well, including biology, chemistry, physics, and geology. At the University of California at Davis, a large and diverse state university, the Biology Undergraduate Scholars Program (BUSP) incorporated workshop study groups into its program for boosting the achievement of minorities, mostly low-income and Latino, in the biological sciences. Over the 10-year life of the program, BUSP cohorts have not only bettered the introductory-course grades of their non-BUSP peers by one-half to a full letter grade, but they have also performed better than minority biology majors ever did before the program started. More than a third of the 600-plus BUSP students have graduated with GGPAs above 3.0, which make them good candidates for graduate school.

Although the workshop approach was developed specifically to bolster mathematical skills, students in a much broader range of majors could benefit from immersion in extra analytical classwork and structured group learning. Treisman advises that the trick to adapting the workshop approach to other fields is locating the conceptual barriers to students’ understanding of course content peculiar to each discipline. It took Treisman years of trial and error just to understand how traditional pedagogy for calculus was leaving some students behind. Hence every academic field may need its own trailblazing researchers to adapt it to new disciplines.

 

 

Building a Bridge for Freshmen

As a fairly selective public university in Atlanta with a focus on science and engineering, the Georgia Institute of Technology, also known as Georgia Tech, began in the early 1970s to admit many minority students whose high-school work left them unprepared for the rigor of its curriculum. Like many schools, it offered a special remedial orientation program for minorities during freshman year. Minority students were singled out for mentoring and counseling for maladjustment to the academic and social demands.

Academically, it was considered a failure. Those who came through the program earned freshman-year grades of 2.5 out of 4, compared with 3.0 or so for their peers, and 15 percent of them didn’t come back for sophomore year. "In the past we told we told them they were dumb, that they needed fixing, and we had them in remedial programs," then-President John Patrick Crecine told the New York Times in 1994.

In 1989, the university scrapped its remedial approach in favor of a rigorous, voluntary four-week summer introduction to the first year called the "Challenge Program." The first years of Challenge have brought impressive gains. Participants’ freshman grades rose to above average (around 3.0) and almost no freshman drops out.

The performance gap between minorities and whites in engineering has been eliminated. For minority engineers at Georgia Tech, the odds of graduating have risen to 70 percent, nearly double the national average for minority students in engineering departments and about the same as Georgia Tech students overall. Of the 1,230 black or Latino students who graduated in 1997 with engineering degrees, about 190 attended Georgia Tech, second in the nation behind only North Carolina A&T and first among majority-white institutions.

The overhaul was informed by a simple principle: Research at Georgia Tech indicated that first-quarter performance seemed to be a major determinant of a student’s odds of graduating. Through bitter experience, the university found that only 60 percent of minority students with a first-quarter GPA. between B and C ended up graduating, as did only about 37 percent of those achieving between C and D. So the university set out to ensure that students knew what to expect of the challenging curriculum and how to lift their early grades. Gordon Moore, an alumnus who experienced the remedial approach as a student, now administers the Challenge Program. Says Moore, "The brain power was there, but a lot of students had no concept of how to navigate the system. Our task is to help their assimilation into the Georgia Tech environment."

The university thinks of the Challenge program as the academic equivalent of "pre-season training" in a sport. Enrollment in the voluntary session fluctuates between 100 and 300 each year. Students take immersion classes in college-level calculus and chemistry from the same professors who will be teaching them in the fall. Professors spell out their high expectations of students and describe the intense courseload. Throughout freshman year, academic advisers monitor their students’ progress.

 

 

Raising the Bar

Many lament the dearth of blacks attending medical school, but the school doing the most to remedy it is practically unknown. Xavier University, a small liberal-arts college in New Orleans, has a unique pedigree as the only private, Catholic, historically black school in the country. It has emerged in recent years as the leading supplier of black undergraduates to the nation’s medical schools. In addition, it also produces more black graduates in biology, physical sciences, and chemistry and places more blacks in pharmacy schools than any other college. More than 70 of the 1,100 blacks who entered medical school in the fall of 1997 were Xavier alumni, and the school estimates that in fall 1998 it sent nearly 100 students to medical schools, mainly state schools across the South and Midwest.

At a time when black enrollment at medical schools has actually started to decline, Xavier’s success continues to grow. Since the federal court ruling in the Hopwood case two years ago eliminated racial preferences at universities in Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi, Xavier has seen a drop in its med-school admissions only in Texas, and even there its numbers began to recover this year.

Xavier has achieved its results in science education despite having only a modest endowment and fairly average admissions criteria. Remarkably, fully half of its graduates take degrees in a science or health field, even though it has remained close to its liberal-arts roots with a core curriculum of 56 credit hours. President Norm Francis sums up its educational philosophy this way: "Most schools take you out to the middle of the lake and expect you to swim to shore on your own. We put you on the shore and teach you how to swim to the middle."

After Francis appointed J.W. Carmichael, a chemistry professor, to be the pre-med adviser in 1974, Carmichael inspired a comprehensive and successful overhaul of its approach to science and pre-med education. The essence of its approach is a highly structured curriculum and watchful advising system that is designed to ensure that students are not permitted to fall behind. In return, the college expects students to work hard.

A small, historically black, liberal-arts college in New Orleans has managed to become the leading supplier of black undergraduates to medical schools.

Science courses offers students clear goals for learning and frequent tests to ensure they have mastered the material at every step. Each science department, not individual professors, determines the structure and content of lower-level courses, which are standardized within and across departments. This ensures that struggling students can be tutored more effectively and that professors will teach a broad course content beyond their research interests.

To help close the gaps in some students’ pre-college preparation, the school created its own science textbooks and workbooks to include daily homework assignments, important vocabulary words, extensive practice tests, and frequent reviews of key concepts. Building on the Treisman approach, the school encourages students to form study groups to exchange help with course material. Academic advisers meet weekly with underclassmen in the sciences to monitor their progress. Free academic tutoring is available. Whenever the school notices a student cutting class or missing assignments, it is likely to call him—or even his parents. Xavier also offers extensive help in applying to graduate school and preparing for graduate admissions tests.

Xavier doesn’t turn average students into superstars: The median scores of its pre-med students taking the Medical College Assessment Test (MCAT) are only par for Louisiana, and a little below average for the nation. But the scores are above the national average for blacks nationwide, and they demonstrate Xavier’s knack for boosting minority students to heights they would likely not reach elsewhere.

Francis believes one of the biggest impediments to black achievement in undergraduate science is that blacks are disproportionately likely to graduate from high school lacking proper preparation and good analytic reasoning skills. So for years Xavier has sponsored an annual series of summer problem-solving courses in biology, chemistry, and math for local high-school and junior-high-school students. And in the summer before matriculation at Xavier, science-oriented students are encouraged to take an intensive course in analytic reasoning, called SOAR. The school found that SOAR students were twice as likely as other Xavier students to graduate.

Xavier’s hard work is paying off: A 1988 study compared high-ability black high-school graduates (within the top 2 percent of SAT or ACT scores) who enter the biology or chemistry departments at Xavier with a national sample of blacks of similar ability. The Xavier students were twice as likely to get into medical school as other blacks were to get into any graduate or professional program.

 

 

Bidding Up Achievement

Every year a foundation affiliated with the College Board designates about 800 of the nation’s top black high-school students "National Achievement Scholars," based on SAT scores and high-school records. They are the cream of college-bound blacks, and typically more of them matriculate at Harvard University than at any other school. But for the last seven years, Florida A&M University, a once-obscure, historically black public university in Tallahassee, has vied with Harvard for the number-one spot. Last year, 59 of them came to FAMU.

"Top black students ought to be treated like the top black athletes in America," its president, Frederick Humphries, has said. Humphries has raised the quality of FAMU’s student body in part by personally recruiting good students with all the zeal of a Big 10 football coach. He attracts them with his record in delivering training opportunities and job offers from America’s leading corporations. An unabashed advocate of the role of historically black colleges, Humphries hopes that his policy of celebrating—and rewarding—black students for their academic potential will set a standard for all colleges.

FAMU has created a culture of success, especially in business management, engineering, and sciences, by aggressively recruiting top students, beefing up the school’s departments, emphasizing preprofessional preparation, and offering summer internships for management and technical opportunities with large companies. In the last 13 years, FAMU has more than tripled its enrollment—from 3,200 to 11,000—while raising the average SAT score of entering freshmen from 700 to 1036.

A small but critical part of the FAMU strategy is its "Life Gets Better" scholarships. Each of these scholarships is fully funded by a Fortune 500 company, which sponsors students for full tuition and expenses and offers them summer internships throughout college. Many of these students go right to work for their sponsor upon graduation, but it isn’t required. At any one time, 100 undergraduates enjoy such scholarships.

One of FAMU’s biggest draws is its exemplary preparation for corporate America. Business majors follow a structured course track set up to resemble a corporate job ladder. Freshmen are "hired" as "entry-level employees" and work their way up the "job ladder" as they continue their studies and gain experience operating various enterprises around the campus, such as the shuttle van system. In addition to academic course work, they study office politics, professional behavior, and public speaking, they attend some classes wearing business attire, and they are trained to present themselves with confidence.

FAMU’s secret is cultivating close relationships with corporate America. Business majors, who constitute 20 percent of the undergraduate student body, and many nonbusiness majors alike benefit from FAMU’s connections to the 120-plus firms its "Industry Cluster." These firms provide hundreds of summer internship opportunities, contribute to the school’s burgeoning scholarship fund, and offer top executives, including CEOs such as IBM’s Louis Gerstner, to teach one-day seminars at FAMU. Professors are required to develop consulting relationships with corporations. As a result, FAMU graduates are among the most sought-after black graduates in the corporate world. Says Joe Wiley, a 20-year recruiter for Monsanto, "These kids are articulate, poised, and focused. They know what they want to do. They’re the cream of the crop."

According to Delores Dean, head of career services, FAMU draws 600 companies a year to conduct about 6,000 on-campus interviews. "We consider it a top-tier school," says Lavelle Bond, a long-time recruiter for Procter & Gamble, which hired more than a dozen FAMU engineers and business majors this year. "They have students that come out strong academically and have the professional skills." "We spend $50,000 to train someone," says Donald Thomas, a manager at Occidental in Dallas, which hires two or three FAMU alumni every year. "When you hire a FAMU graduate, you don’t have to spend all that money."

 

 

Key Lessons

These examples don’t begin to exhaust the list of approaches to boosting achievement among blacks and other minorities. Several elite colleges, including Smith and Vassar, are boosting the academic aspirations of talented community-college students who mistakenly believe that a baccalaureate education is beyond their abilities. They have teamed up with community colleges, many of them urban and heavily minority, to expose such promising students to a selective academic environment. More importantly, many universities have taken responsibility for improving the pre-college preparation of low-income minority students. Xavier’s SOAR program has counterparts all over the country, including California, where universities run enrichment programs for local, low-income, secondary-school students interested in science subjects.

The colleges with a strong record of raising black achievement are those that provide a social framework where achievement is valued.

The experience of these universities suggests some general lessons about boosting achievement among minority students. First, it’s important to understand that high achievement is possible—but it’s hard work. If "setting high expectations" is not to become a meaningless cliché, it must entail identifying and nurturing those students, even those with deficiencies in their pre-college preparation, who are capable of working hard and pushing them to master undergraduate-level work. By providing preprofessional advising, internships, and research opportunities and by encouraging students to consider graduate studies, the most successful institutions explicitly reinforce the connection between academic effort and later rewards.

Second, these students seem to benefit from a highly structured curriculum. Savvy schools have learned that students are better able to overcome deficiencies in high-school preparation when professors tell them what to expect in each class, set clear and incremental goals for mastering material, and quickly diagnose any need for extra tutoring. The emphasis, at institutions such as the University of Texas and Xavier University, on mastering bottleneck subjects such as calculus and freshman chemistry could be replicated in other disciplines such as economics and even the humanities, where a mastery of writing may be necessary for future success.

Third, majority-white institutions in particular should recognize that fostering a culture of academic achievement among minorities sometimes includes helping students overcome a sense of academic isolation from the rest of the student body. The proponents of the calculus workshop approach to freshman courses say that a cornerstone of their success has been breaking down the tendency of minorities to study alone and to separate their studies from the rest of their campus life. The institutions where blacks thrive are those that create a campus culture in which students integrate academic effort into their social lives.

As the examples of Xavier and FAMU show, this is probably easier at historically black colleges, where neither preferential admissions nor racial separatism is an issue. These two schools have succeeded in creating an entire student climate focused on academic and professional attainment. But most blacks attend majority-white institutions, many of which encourage black students to come together, if at all, in nonacademic pursuits, such as separate student unions or all-black dormitories. There is much we don’t know and need to find out about the preparation and performance of minority students. But the colleges with a strong record of raising black academic achievement are those that provide a social framework where such achievement is valued.


D.W. Miller is the managing editor of Policy Review: The Journal of American Citizenship.


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