The tentative agreement between Maryland and the federal government on a desegregation plan for the state's public colleges and universities must still overcome hurdles because the state wants to attach "substantial restrictions" to the agreement, a federal education official said yesterday.
The five-year plan, which would set target goals for improving integration at the schools and provide funds to upgrade four predominantly black institutions, would end one of the longest-running desegregation disputes in the country. If approved, the plan would be welcomed by a number of college administrators.
While negotiations continue between state and federal authorities, the Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights expressed reservations yesterday.
"The restrictions they are attempting to impose are very substantial," said Thomasina Rogers, spokeswoman for the Office of Civil Rights. She said Maryland was asking for conditions that did not exist in any of the 18 states involved in similar desegregation agreements. Maryland is the only one of these states that does not have a federally approved desegregation plan, Rogers said.
She said federal education officials would probably agree to the desegregation plan in its present form. But the Maryland attorney general's office, she said, is attempting to impose additional restrictions on the authority of the Office of Civil Rights to enforce the plan if it were violated.
"If the state attorney general's office insists on these restrictions, there is the possibility they may jeopardize the plan because they are fairly significant departures from the way the Office of Civil Rights normally conducts its enforcement procedures," Rogers said.
James J. Mingle, chief of the education division of the Maryland attorney general's office, said the conditions his office is seeking are neither unique nor did he see them as a major stumbling block to the agreement.
"Both parties are strongly advocating their positions," he said. "We're having fruitful discussions."
He said he expected that there would be a formal agreement within a few weeks.
Officials at the predominantly black institutions -- Coppin State College in Baltimore, Bowie State College, Morgan State University in Baltimore and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore at Princess Anne -- said yesterday they would welcome the desegregation plan.
Under the plan, the state agrees to increase enrollment of whites at historically black colleges to 19 percent. In 1982, white enrollment at the four black schools was 9 percent. The plan also commits the state to increase black enrollment at the predominantly white schools from 11 to 15 percent by 1989.
Of particular satisfaction to these officials is the provision to spend $75 million at their institutions.
"The new programs and enhancement money are going to be helpful, extremely helpful," said Calvin Burnett, president of Coppin State College.
Jean Spencer, executive director of the Board of Trustees of State Universities and Colleges, said she was pleased that there was a reconciliation in the works, but concerned that some of the institutions were not consulted when enrollment targets were increased from previous goals.
"These increases were not discussed ahead of time. Whether they are realistic or achievable, I don't know," she said.