Women, Blacks Lead Rush to South's Colleges Regional Education Board Releases Figures from 16 States

Article excerpt

Byline: Walter C. Jones, Times-Union staff writer

ATLANTA -- Southern women and blacks are attending college in such increasing numbers that they are outpacing the advances of all other groups, according to figures released yesterday by the Southern Regional Education Board.

Blacks already make up more than half the high school graduates in the states of Texas, Florida, Georgia and Mississippi and 46 percent of them in South Carolina. That has challenged policymakers to encourage more of them to strive for higher education.

The Texas legislature just passed a bill to address the issue by requiring all students to take tougher, college-prep classes unless they get permission for an exception from their parents and counselors to take less-stringent vocational courses.

"It was to sort of get it out of the realm of the students because they were taking the easy way out,'' said Rep. Kent Grusendorf, R-Arlington, the author of the bill.

Other states, like Louisiana, recently established a network of community colleges. Georgia and other states that already had two-year and community colleges began to rely on them as places for students who weren't prepared to enter the state's universities once academic standards were raised in the senior institutions.

Rep. DuBose Porter, chairman of the Higher Education Committee of the Georgia House, said more funding needs to go to those entry-level colleges to cope with higher enrollments.

But community colleges aren't working as feeders for the senior schools in all cases, said William Proctor, executive director of the Florida Post-Secondary Education Planning Commission.

"One kind of disturbing trend for us,'' he said, "is we are finding a much smaller percentage of students are finishing up their four-year degrees.''

But he said he hasn't determined why.

The figures were presented at the regional board's annual meeting presided by Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes, who has been touted nationally for his efforts to reform education in his state. He told the other governors and state education leaders that Southern students often don't get into college because the entrance exams are the only challenging tests they have ever taken.

"Because they've been doing OK in school and going along fine, they are shocked when they can't get into college or do college work because they have never taken high-stakes testing,'' he said. …