From among the aging red brick row houses of west Baltimore rise the modern red brick buildings of Coppin State College, a child of Maryland's segregationist past and of the difficult task of redressing that history.
Created in 1900 to train black teachers, Coppin still enrolls only a few hundred white students, about 12 percent of its student population.
A beneficiary of more than a decade of increased state funding, Coppin has expanded its programs, raised the quality of its faculty and doubled the number of campus buildings. But the racial profile of the school, like that of campuses across the state, hasn't changed, a situation officials hope to alter with an agreement being hammered out now with the U.S. Department of Education.
The difficulties of desegregating Coppin are typical of those facing Maryland's public campuses, as well as those in other states required by federal decrees to integrate. According to one scholar, desegregation in these 19 states "seems to be stalled."
For a variety of reasons, said Harvard University lecturer and research associate John B. Williams, "there has not been a great deal of increased enrollment of black students in traditionally white institutions, nor has there been an increase of white students in traditionally black institutions."
Maryland's plan, coming after 15 years of legal challenges and lack of movement, incorporates racial goals and continued financial infusions into its four traditionally black schools, standard tactics used in other states.
Yet, even as college administrators greet with relief the end of a long struggle with the federal government, questions linger in Maryland as elsewhere about the desegregation process: Can states ever hope to draw significant numbers of white students to traditionally black institutions and vice versa? Can they avoid enrollment declines at black institutions when black students are encouraged to attend traditionally white schools? Also, does adding and boosting programs at the black institutions -- while maintaining many of the same programs in white colleges and universities -- perpetuate the dual system?
Coppin President Calvin W. Burnett noted another problem his school faces: "A historically black college campus located in the inner city, which is a black neighborhood . . . , has more difficulty in recruiting white students."
There is also the tradition of school segregation to overcome, according to Sheldon H. Knorr, Maryland's commissioner of higher education. "It's difficult to change patterns," he said. "It's slow, but I'm pleased with our progress."
To officials like Knorr, such progress is seen in legal and administrative terms. But to others, the possibility of dramatic change has other implications. Many black students at Coppin, for example, say they favor more integration, but not at the expense of the school's predominantly black enrollment and heritage.
"My interest was in a predominantly black school," said James E. Jackson, a Coppin senior. "Being around my peers, that's a plus. That's why I'm still here."
There has been progress in the states ordered to desegregate by the Department of Education, but integration has been generally slow, and some states are not meeting their goals.
For example, North Carolina, which entered into an agreement with the federal government in 1981, has exceeded its goal for enrollment of whites in traditionally black institutions, but it is behind in getting blacks to enroll in predominantly white institutions.
Raymond Dawson, vice president for academic affairs at the University of North Carolina, said desegregation there has been hampered mostly by economic factors, including reductions in student aid, that have reduced the number of blacks attending college. "The pool is just not growing," he said.
Some critics assert that these numerical goals are often meaningless. When whites are drawn to a specialized and unique program in a traditionally black school, for example, there may be little or no contact with black students, said Samuel L. Myers, president of the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education.
"On the surface, you can say you've met your goals . . . but you still have a segregated system because you have enclaves of white students congregated in a program," he said. "You really haven't integrated anything."
The challenge to integrate Maryland's 28 public campuses is abundantly clear. Black students make up about 21 percent of high school graduates but only about 8 percent of enrollment at the University of Maryland's College Park campus, according to 1984 figures. Black enrollment has increased only 1.7 percent since 1974. Black students account for about 10 percent of the enrollment at Towson State College.
On the other hand, Morgan State University registered about 13 percent non-black students last year.
Racial isolation is obvious on campuses, many say.
"In a technical sense, the University of Maryland is a desegregated place, but as a black faculty member, it's very clear that black students have their own life there," said Christopher Foreman, an assistant professor of government and politics on the College Park campus. "It's still true, you walk into the Roy Rogers in the student union and you see all the black students congregated in one corner of the dining hall. That speaks very eloquently about the degree of isolation. But that is not unique to Maryland."
Under the plan state officials have presented to the Office of Civil Rights, the state agreed to increase enrollment of whites at historically black colleges to 19 percent by 1989. In 1982, white enrollment at the four state-funded black schools was 9 percent.
The agreement commits the state to increase black enrollment at predominantly white schools from 11 to 15 percent in that period.
Overall, the proposal is not unlike the plan that the state has been following without federal approval since 1981. Under that plan, and earlier, the state has bolstered funding for the black schools, spending $973,000 in fiscal 1983, for example, on these institutions, which include Coppin, Morgan, Bowie State College and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore.
That financial shot in the arm has raised the per-student spending levels at these schools to among the highest in the country for comparable institutions, according to documents outlining the tentative plan. UMES, for example, is the highest ranked campus in the country, Bowie is ranked eighth and Coppin is in the 77th percentile. By comparison, Maryland's traditionally white institutions average in only the 36th percentile.
Under the new plan, the state would spend $75 million over five years at its historically black institutions, add 25 new programs and continue to improve facilities.
The plan calls for consideration of "centers of excellence" for teacher education and would require eventual elimination of some duplicated programs.
While some college administrators expressed reservations over whether the numerical goals would be achievable, they said they generally welcomed the plan.
But Myers, from the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education, questioned the wisdom of what he calls the "salt and pepper" approach of numerical goals. "Simply getting more whites on black campuses and more blacks on white campuses . . . overlooks the importance of enhancing black institutions," he said. "Give them an equitable share, and many of the other problems will be resolved."
There are others who criticize the financial infusion for black schools. "There's a clear commitment here to maintain a dual system . . . . It creates a dual system of funding and a racially dual system of program approval," said Hugh Davis Graham, dean for graduate studies at the University of Maryland Baltimore County and an expert on desegregation.
But commissioner Knorr disagrees. "The theory is that if the campus is attractive" in programs, staffing and facilities, "the dual system will not continue." No enhancements, he argued, would perpetuate the separate systems, "because white students would not be interested in going to second-class institutions."
As the merits of the plan are debated, there is the central question of how effective such strategies will be.
"We've got to offer a little bit more to attract the first-time, full-time freshman white student," said James Lyons, president of Bowie State, where a target goal of 25 percent white freshmen has been set for 1989, compared to 15 percent enrolled in 1982. "To achieve that goal, the state is going to have to put far more scholarship money or 'other-race' grants into the school."
William Carroll, dean of continuing education at Coppin, said most white students on his campus were attracted by programs for which the school has developed a good reputation, such as training for special education teachers.
"We're playing a catch-up game," he said. "When we reach parity with white institutions we have much more of a chance of getting minority non-black students."
James Godard, a consultant on desegregation issues with the Southern Regional Education Board in Atlanta, said the most meaningful progress has been made not through numerical goals, but in cooperative programs.
For example, he said, Florida A&M, a traditionally black university, and Florida State University, traditionally white, have been busing students between their campuses under a cooperative program for communications majors.
In Virginia, which signed an agreement with the federal government in 1978, enrollment of whites at traditionally black schools has increased from 3.4 percent in 1978 to 8.8 percent in 1984, according to Barry Dorsey, associate director of the State Council for Higher Education. Enrollment of blacks at traditionally white schools has grown from about 6 percent to 7.7 percent in that period, he said.
Virginia has met its numerical goals in each of the first two years of the plan, and $50 million has been spent to enhance traditionally black schools since 1978, according to Dorsey.