Fewer black students enrolled as undergraduates in state-supported colleges and universities in Virginia this fall than in the previous two years, leaving the state far short of desegregation goals set by the federal government, the State Council of Higher Education reported.
But preliminary figures show that the number of blacks enrolling in graduate schools surpassed the federal targets.
State education officials said the undergraduate enrollment figures were disappointing, but reflected a pattern of declining black enrollments nationally.
"Sure we wished the number had been better, and I'm discouraged on that side," said James McLean, coordinator of affirmative action and student research at the state council. "But because of all of the good programs we have put in place, I would not say that we have failed."
The preliminary figures show that Virginia enrolled 1,697 new black students this fall, 62 percent of the goal of 2,730 students. In the first year of the plan, the institutions were 11 percent above the goal of 1,787 students and last year they exceeded the goal of 2,634 by 23 percent.
In the state's graduate schools, 590 new black students -- 109 percent of the goal -- enrolled this fall.
McLean said the figures are likely to improve when enrollments for the winter quarter and second semester are tallied.
Virginia is in the third and final year of a desegregation plan that was outlined by the U.S. Education Department's Office of Civil Rights after a federal judge threatened to withhold millions of dollars of federal aid to education if Virginia and seven other states did not make better progress in eradicating segregation.
The plan includes goals for enrollment and recruitment of minority students at Virginia's 13 traditionally white, state-supported colleges and universities. McLean said the state has instituted special programs such as an intensive summer enrichment course to ensure that entering black freshmen can compete with white classmates at the university level. He said the state spends about $800,000 on the program and about 450 students who took the courses are now enrolled in state colleges and universities.