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Bennett: Schools Fail To Prepare Blacks for College

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Washington--Secretary of Education William J. Bennett last week reiterated his claim that poor precollegiate academic preparation, rather than a lack of access to higher education, is responsible for the underrepresentation of black students on college campuses.

"The most serious underlying barrier to greater black college enrollment is the insufficient size of the pool of black students who have had the right preparation," he said here at the annual meeting of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities.

"This pool has been limited because too often we have not provided black students with the first-class academic elementary and secondary education they deserve," he said.

"Indeed, the overriding civil-rights challenge for our time is this: to ensure serious reform of elemen4tary and secondary education so as to promote equal intellectual opportunity for all our young people."

To ensure that all students receive the preparation necessary for college-level work, he added, all students should have access to the same rigorous academic curriculum, such as the one proposed in his report, James Madison High School.

"To declare that minorities are equal in theory and in law, but then to offer them 'dummy' courses in math, science, and English, is an offense," he said.

Mr. Bennett's comments were similar to those he made last month at the annual meeting of the American Council on Education, which has named a blue-ribbon commission, headed by former Presidents Gerald R. Ford and Jimmy Carter, to study the issue of minority participation in higher education and oth8er sectors of society. (See Education Week, Jan. 27, 1988.)

In his address last week, Secretary Bennett also rejected claims that minority enrollments have declined in recent years, and that "alleged" cutbacks in federal student aid have prevented many minority students from attending college.

In fact, Mr. Bennett said, higher-education enrollments of students from all minority groups rose 20 percent during the 1980's, and black postsecondary enrollment--including enrollment in for-profit career schools--"stands at an all-time high."

In addition, he said, need-based federal student aid has risen by 76 percent since 1980. "The American taxpayer has been generous and will continue to be generous in making college education available to all students," he said.--rr

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