Without an overhaul of higher-education funding systems, college enrollment will become increasingly stratified, warns a report issued this month by a national commission on higher-education finance.
Under the current system, affluent students will concentrate in expensive, competitive colleges, while low-income students will be relegated to less selective programs that may not lead to a bachelor's degree, says the report by the Commission on National Investment in Higher Education.
The report says college has become increasingly unaffordable as federal and state support of higher education has declined as a percentage of total college revenues over the past decade. At the same time, endowments have grown slowly.
Although federal aid was nearly evenly divided between grants and loans in the mid- to late 1970's, the current loan-to-grant ratio is 3.8 to 1, leaving today's students saddled with higher debts when they graduate.
The Council for Aid to Education, a New York City group that tracks private support of K-12 and higher education, convened the commission.
Copies of the report are available free of charge from the Council for Aid to Higher Education, 342 Madison Ave., Suite 1532, New York, N.Y. 10173; (212) 661-5800.
Some academic leaders have set out to prove that historically black colleges and universities still serve a vital purpose.
In a report issued last week, a panel of the American Association of University Professors urges continued support for historically black institutions, which have come under scrutiny in recent months.
Some states have proposed closing public black colleges or cutting their funding, according to the A.A.U.P. Others have considered merging the schools with white-majority institutions.
Most of those proposals reflect efforts to remove all vestiges of segregation, the report says.
But the panel argues that black colleges and universities have played a role that other institutions could not fill.
The schools "have produced more black graduates than all of the other colleges," Gloria A. Mixon, an education professor at Clark Atlanta University, said in a news release.
She also pointed to the institutions' strong record on turning out graduates with mathematics and science degrees. Black colleges and universities are also cited as top producers of minority teachers.
--Meg Sommerfeld & Joanna Richardson