Virginia and U.S. education officials said yesterday they were close to agreement on a revised desegregation plan for the state's public colleges that would end the threat of a federal fund cut-off to the schools.
After three days of negotiations in Washington, a spokesman said Gov. John Dalton was "very hopeful" a final settlement in the prolonged dispute could be reached by Saturday, the deadline set by federal officials last fall.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, which is conducting the negotiations, refused comment yesterday, but other federal officials indicated the talks had made considerable progress.
The talks are focusing, officials said, on HEW insistence that the state do more than it previously had offered to eliminate duplicate business and education programs at predominantly black and white colleges in Norfolk.
In November, David S. Tatel, director of HEW's office of civil rights, said that unless nine duplicate programs were eliminated, HEW would start action to cut off $100 million annually in higher education aid to the state.
At first the two Norfolk schools, predominantly-black Norfolk State College and predominantly-white Old Dominion University, said they would oppose any cutbacks in their course offerings.
Dalton said he would help the two colleges fight the issue in court although earlier he had urged them to try to come up with a compromise.
Yesterday, sources close to the negotiations said the colleges had agreed to specialize in different fields of business and education, requiring students majoring in some programs to take courses at both schools, which are less than four miles apart.
"They're still working out the details," one source said, "But there's been a lot of progress."
HEW reached a tentative agreement last March with the Dalton administration on a college desegregation plan that calls for major increases in the number of blacks attending predominantly white colleges. The agreemejnt appeared to signal an end to years of conflict between the state and HEW over the future of Virginia's predominantly black colleges.
The agreement was conditioned, HEW said, on the state coming up with an "acceptable" progam to eliminate duplication at the two colleges in Norfolk.