Virginia Gov. Charles S. Robb charged yesterday that low admissions standards at many of the state's public colleges have caused a "wasteful" proliferation of remedial courses that take away time and money from advanced academic work.
Repeating a call for tougher admissions standards, Robb told the trustees of the 15 state-supported colleges and universities that he has an "unequivocal commitment" to provide access to college to all students who "want it and can benefit from it," but he added: "Access to higher education is not much good without the prospect of success.
"Relatively few college students who require remediation eventually graduate," Robb said. Without naming any colleges, he said there are state schools where the percentage of students graduating in four years ranges from 22 percent to a low of 9 percent. This is an indication, the governor said, that "the system works poorly for many students," and that remedial courses can best be taught in high school.
According to the State Council of Higher Education, from which Robb obtained his figures, the college with the four-year graduation rate of 9 percent was Norfolk State University.
Barry M. Dorsey, associate director of the council, said the group's study, completed in 1980, also showed that only 17 percent of students graduated in four years from Christopher Newport College in Newport News and just 22 percent from George Mason University in Fairfax and Clinch Valley College in Southwestern Virginia.
Overall, Dorsey said, only 37 percent of all students graduate on schedule from Virginia's four-year colleges--some 42 percent of whites and 17 percent of blacks. He said the statewide figure was about the same as the average nationwide, but he said no separate national figures were available by race.
Because of relatively weak high school preparation, Dorsey said, many more black students than whites take more than four years to graduate. For example, at Norfolk State, which is a predominantly black school, 44 percent of students who entered in 1975 were enrolled for a fifth year in 1979.
But Dorsey said no figures were available on what proportion of students who take more than four years eventually graduate from Norfolk State or any other Virginia college.
In his speech yesterday at George Mason, Robb declared his commitment to increasing college enrollment by blacks, and said he supports "remediation of an appropriate kind in colleges when the need exists."
Neither of those points was included in a similar speech Robb gave in Washington 12 days ago, which drew criticism from some black college officials. But yesterday, Harrison B. Wilson, president of Norfolk State, said he was glad Robb had "clarified" his views. Wilson said he agreed that raising standards was "a good idea," but added that "until elementary and high schools are geared up to do the job" it will still be important for universities "that care about this remedial mission to do it, and I don't think the governor disagrees."
Yesterday Robb also urged an expanded "partnership" between business and the tax-supported colleges to help "ease the pain" of federal budget cutbacks. He said he favors sharing university faculty, laboratories and equipment with private industries that would help support them, and is also looking into the possibility of joint construction projects, "in the form of industrial-education parks," where colleges and private industry would share new buildings.