The federal government announced a five - year plan yesterday for fully desegregation state college systems in Virginia and five other states, while ensuring the continued existence of the states' historically black colleges.
Court - ordered guidelines issued by the Department of Health, Education and Welfare call for achieving this goal by increasing the number of blacks at predominantly white schools and the number of whites at schools formerly limited to blacks.
However, the plan recognizes 'the unique role of black colleges in meeting the educational needs of black students' by assigning them a special, two - stage role in the desegregation process.
Initially, during the period when increased opportunities for blacks are being opened at white schools, the black colleges would retain their traditionally black character and enrollments have been integrated, the black schools would have their white enrollments progressively increased until they become 'part of a unitary system free of the investiges of state-imposed racial segregation.'
The HEW guidelines technically apply to Virginia and five other states - Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and Oklahoma - that have been involved in lawsuits aimed at ending the investiges of dual state college systems established during the days of legal segregation.
In announcing the standards, though, HEW Secretary Joseph A. Califano Jr. said they 'will also serve as guidelines for our own efforts to desegregate higher education in other states when the department finds investiges of . . . racial segregation in their college and university systems.'
For example, the guidelines are likely to figure in efforts to resolve a separate dispute, now pending in the federal courts, between HEW and Maryland. Hew has threatened to cut off federal assistance to Maryland colleges on the grounds that the state is illegally operating a dual system of higher education, and Maryland officials have countered that HEW wants to destroy the state's black colleges despite the black community's desire to keep them.
Yesterday's guidelines stem from a lawsuit brought by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund against HEW, charging that the department was failing to enforce federal civil rights laws against dual school systems in the six states. A group of black colleges and their supporters then interjected themselves into the case, expressing concern that desegregation of the state systems would wipe out existing black schools.
Judge John H. Pratt, who heard the case in U.S. District Court here, ordered HEW to take steps to speed up college desegregation in the six states. But, the judge also specified that the criteria devised by HEW should 'take into account the unique importance of black colleges.'
'The department does not take [Judge Pratt's] language to mean that black institutions are exempt from the Constitution . . . To the contrary, traditionally black and traditionally white institutions are aubject to the same constitutional and congressional mandate to provide an education to all citizens without discrimination or segregation."
The steps outlined on the guidelines for reaching this goal include increasing the total number of black students attending public colleges, with particular emphasis on four-year schools that now are predominantly white: making action to reduce the black dropout rate: increasing the number of white students at what have been black colleges: equalizing the proportion of black and white graduates of a state's public colleges who go to graduate and professional schools; allocating equivalent resources to all colleges in a state, and increasing the number of blacks on the faculties and administrative staffs of public colleges.
Although the guidelines are careful to state that these steps represent goals rather than quotas, they contain specific examples of what HEW wants to see accomplished.
They state that "equal percentages of black and white students who graduate from high school should enroll in public undergraduate institutions." In regard to four-year white colleges, the guidelines say:
'Within five years, the disparity should be cut in half on a statewide basis. For example, if 20 per cent of white high school graduates go to white four-year colleges, and only 10 per cent of black high school graduates enroll at white four-year colleges, then within five years, 15 per cent of black high school graduates should enroll in white four-year schools.'
To help the black schools temporarily retain their identities, the guidelines "delay for two years establishment of numerical goals and timetables" for enrolling whites. That, the HEW plan says is to allow time for measuring progress toward achieving integration in the white schools and to meet "the court's requirement that black access to higher educational opportunities not be diminished during the desegregation process."
In addition, the guidelines say, increased enrollment of whites must be preceded by steps "to strenghten the role of traditionally black institutions" and give them new vitality by setting up new courses and programs and eliminating areas where they merely duplicate other schools.'
Under Pratt's order, the six states must each submit to HEW a desegregation plan based on the guidelines. HEW then must approve or disapprove the plans and, once they are accepted, monitor their implementation over the five-year period.