Virginia and nine other southern and border states have failed to eliminate racial discrimination in their colleges and universities, a congressional committee said in a report to be released today.
The report cited disparities between black and white student enrollment and retention rates, shortages of black faculty and low black enrollment in graduate and professional schools.
The Committee on Government Operations, chaired by Rep. Jack Brooks (D-Tex.), said in its report that Virginia's record in reducing the disparity between black and white enrollment rates is an "abysmal failure." While the enrollment rate for blacks was 8.7 percent below that for whites in 1978, the gap had widened to 20.7 percent by 1985, according to the report.
Also, the state has "done poorly" in meeting its commitment to increase the number of black employes at state-supported schools, the report said.
In addition to Virginia, states examined by the committee included Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina and West Virginia.
"Minority students are being denied equal access to higher education in 10 states," said Rep. Ted Weiss (D-N.Y.) in a written statement released with the report, which was based on an investigation by the subcommittee he chairs. "The Department of Education has the same evidence, yet it refuses to enforce the law."
A higher education official in Virginia argued that the state's colleges and universities have made significant progress in improving racial balance. "Virginia has fulfilled all the commitments in its plan," said Barry M. Dorsey, associate director of Virgina's Council of Higher Education. "Some of the numbers look very good, and we're deficient in others."
He said Virginia's black college-going rate of 31 percent -- the proportion of black high school graduates who go on to state-supported colleges or universities -- is higher than the national average of 26 percent. The college-going rate among white high school graduates, both nationally and in Virginia, is about 50 percent, he said.
Desegregation plans in the 10 states stem from a 1970 lawsuit challenging the federal government's continued funding to states that had not eliminated the vestiges of their previously segregated colleges and universities. U.S. District Judge John H. Pratt ruled that federal officials must enforce civil rights laws, denying funds to states that fail to comply with desegregation plans.
The plans expired in 1985 and state officials are awaiting findings from the Department of Education on whether the states have fulfilled their commitments to desegregate. If the department finds they have not, it can require them to submit new desegregation plans. If the states are found to be in compliance with the laws, civil rights organizations are expected to renew their legal challenge.
By delaying its findings despite evidence that desegregation commitments have not been met, Weiss said, the Reagan administration "is setting a precedent that half-hearted and unsuccessful attempts to correct racial discrimination are satisfactory."
Gary L. Curran, spokesman for the Office of Civil Rights, said the report contained "nothing much new" and argued that the states should not be considered in violation of civil rights laws solely because they failed to meet numerical goals for racial balance. That position was also stated in a separate section of the report signed by Republican members of the committee.
Similar figures reported in June by Virginia state education officials were accompanied by a request to the U.S. Department of Education that it relax its monitoring of state desegregation efforts.