Capital Digest

February 06, 1991 2 min read

High Court Asked To Rule On College Desegregation

The Bush Administration has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review a federal appellate court’s ruling that Mississippi’s university system does not discriminate on the basis of race.

In a petition filed late last month, the Justice Department asked the High Court to hear United States v. Mabus, a companion case to the Mississippi lawsuit, Ayers v. Allain.

Last September, the full U.S.4Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled in Ayers that although Mississippi had previously mandated segregation in higher education, the state has opened the doors of its universities to all students.

The appellate court upheld a federal district court’s ruling and vacated a 2-to-1 decision by a panel of its own judges.

In its petition, the Justice Department asked the Supreme Court to end the “considerable confusion” among lower courts over university-desegregation issues.

Claiming that the Fifth Circuit Court had erred, it said that Mississippi’s “racially biased admissions process and perpetuation of the dual system through program duplication at the historically black and historically white schools ... impermissibly fettered” a student’s choice.

In reauthorizing the Higher Education Act of 1965, the Congress should consider such ideas as making Pell Grants an entitlement, replacing the National Direct Student Loan program with grants, and “front loading” grants to students’ first two years of postsecondary education, according to the chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee.

In his most specific public comments on reauthorization since assuming chairmanship of the commitel10ltee, Representative William D. Ford of Michigan last week also told the Coalition of Higher Education Assistance Organizations that he considered no program “sacred or untouchable.”

“This time we will put everything on the table and make major and fundamental changes where they are called for,” Mr. Ford said. “We may end up with some or many of the current programs, but it will only be after having carefully considered each program on its merits.”

The remarks reflected the apparently strong sentiment among members of the Congress and the Bush Administration in favor of a comprehensive re-examination of the law’s student-aid programs.

Mr. Ford called on the Congress to restore grant aid to low- and middle-income students, simplify the aid system, restore confidence in the student-loan program, and develop an early-intervention program.

The chairman also praised the Administration for looking at ways to streamline the Stafford Student Loan program and suggested that the State Student Incentive Grant program be transformed into matching grants for states to implement early-intervention efforts.

A version of this article appeared in the February 06, 1991 edition of Education Week as Capital Digest