Federal education officials have again praised Virginia's efforts to desegregate its state college system, but said much more still needs to be done -- particularly at Virginia State University, one of the state's historically black schools.
Some of the state's traditionally white schools have failed to aggressively pursue black students, black faculty and cooperative programs with the state's two predominantly black schools, according to the Office for Civil Rights, an enforcement arm of the U.S. Department of Education.
But the agency, in a letter and report to Gov. Charles S. Robb made public Tuesday, used much of the report to criticize state support and administration at VSU, the predominantly black school at Petersburg that has been troubled for years by disarray in its academic programs and financial accounting.
"Even though progress has been made," the report said, "we believe Virginia must increase its efforts" to attract and retain blacks in the system that until the 1970s was segregated.
Virginia is entering the last year of a three-year, court approved agreement with OCR to remove the vestiges of segregation in state higher education. The current plan was initially approved in 1978 by then-Gov. John N. Dalton and revised by Robb. The plan was a result of a federal suit filed by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund against the state in 1973.
The suit charged that federal agencies were not moving quickly enough to end segregation practices in Virginia and eight other state college systems. In 1983, U.S. District Judge John Pratt threatened to order the federal government to withhold millions of dollars in federal aid to education if the states did not make "substantial progress" in ending segregation.
For two successive years, the Office of Civil Rights has commended the state's progress but pointed out continuing deficiencies. The agency is expected to go back into federal court early next year to make a report after initial reports on the 1985-86 academic year in Virginia.
The report to Robb said that the state has failed to live up to several key promises to stem early withdrawal of black students from college.
The report cited a failure to establish promised "early warning systems" to detect and counsel students having academic trouble or establish a peer program of student-to-student counseling.
On recruiting black faculty members and administrators, the report said the state "has made significant progress," but said several institutions individually "continue to have problems" and singled out Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond.
VCU also was criticized for poor record keeping on its recruitment efforts. "In fact, VCU lost 20 percent of its black instructional and administrative staff" last year, the report said.
For nonacademic staff positions, the state met only 52 percent of its goal to hire more blacks at all schools, the report said.
Overall, from 1978-79 to 1983-84, the report showed that despite the state's long-term plan to get blacks to enter college in the same proportion to their population as whites do, the gap between the two nearly doubled from 8 percentage points to about 15 percentage points from the 1978-79 academic year to 1983-84. The rate of all black high school graduates entering college rose slightly from 31.4 percent to 33.1 percent, while the rate of white students rose from 40 percent to 48.1 percent.
"Virignia's experience there is unfortunately no different from all other states," said Barry M. Dorsey, associate director of the Council of Higher Education, the umbrella agency for state universities and colleges.
Barry said states are competing for a small pool of black high school graduates entering college and said "the long-term solution to the problem, certainly in Virginia, is to increase the number of students" eligible for college. The state last year began implementing tougher academic standards for high school students.