Stewart Vows To Fight Cuts in Aid
WASHINGTON--The new president of the College Board has pledged to become a "loud cannon'' in the debate over federal student aid, arguing that cutbacks in such aid would restrict access to college for minorities.
Minority students need "better preparation academically,'' Donald M. Stewart said here last week. "But if we deny them ways of paying for education, reform efforts are not going far.''
Mr. Stewart, who took office in January, spoke at a symposium marking the 20th anniversary of the board's Washington office.
He cited a study, released late last month by the United Negro College Fund and the National Institute of Independent Colleges and Universities, that found that the shift in emphasis from grants to loans in federal student-assistance programs had especially harmed students at historically black private colleges. (See Education Week, April 8, 1987.)
That trend has also led to recent reductions in the black enrollment rate in higher education, argued Mr. Stewart, a former president of Spelman College, a historically black institution in Atlanta.
"People at the bottom of the economic ladder do not move easily from grants to loans,'' he said. "What happens? They don't go to college.''
Over the past few years, he noted, proportionately fewer blacks and Hispanics have enrolled in college. "This is not merely a matter of social injustice, but it promises national economic disaster as well,'' he said.
Besides advocating continued federal support for student aid, Mr. Stewart urged colleges to strengthen programs to recruit talented black students. "If you don't make an effort to get qualified black students, you aren't going to get any,'' he said.
He warned, however, against lowering academic standards for minorities. Such a policy, he argued, would "program students for failure.''
Rather, he said, schools and colleges should strive to ensure that all students can meet higher standards.
"We need a radical change in the way we think about educational accountability,'' he said. "In the old system, quality was typically defined in terms of standards that must be met.''
"We need a new system,'' he continued. "The standards will be just as high, but quality would be defined in terms of the proportion of students able to meet those standards.''RR