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Plan Seeks To Boost Number of Black Ph.D.'s

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Hoping to end the "shocking underrepresentation'' of African-Americans on the faculties of the nation's colleges and universities, two public higher-education associations have launched an initiative to increase the number of black doctoral candidates.

Last week, the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges and the American Association of State Colleges and Universities unveiled a plan to help universities that offer doctoral degrees identify promising undergraduates at historically black colleges and universities, with the help of a networked computer data base.

The General Electric Foundation has awarded the two groups a $119,000 grant to launch the initiative, known as the National Minority Graduate Feeder Program. The grant is one component of the foundation's larger $20 million decadelong "Faculty for the Future'' program, an effort it launched in 1989 to increase the number of women and minority-group members who teach at the nation's engineering, physical-science, and business management schools.

While the percentage of U.S. doctorates awarded to Native Americans, Asians, and Hispanics increased between 1977 and 1992, the percentage of doctoral degrees earned by African-Americans has declined, dropping from 4.5 percent in 1977 to 3.7 percent in 1992.

Of the 25,759 doctorates awarded by American universities in 1992, only 951 went to blacks.

Bolstering Current Efforts

These figures "are all much too small. Period. No discussion,'' said C. Peter Magrath, the president of NASULGC. "It is, frankly, a disgrace to our nation.''

Approximately 38 historically black public colleges and 20 to 30 public doctoral-degree-granting universities will participate in the initiative at the outset.

Each of the participating doctoral institutions must agree to provide at least 10 research fellowships in mathematics and the sciences for minority-group members.

The universities will be able to identify prospective fellows through a computer network with the black colleges, which will provide information such as a student's field of interest, grade-point average, courses taken, or Graduate Record Examination scores.

While similar efforts are under way at some historically black schools, the initiative will help "supplement and systematize'' those efforts, Mr. Magrath said.

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