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People of Color and Women Gain In Enrollment

WASHINGTON — Students of color represent a larger share of the college population than they did at the beginning of this decade, a new Education Department report says.
Minorities in 1997 accounted for 27 percent of all college students, up from 20 percent in 1990, says the study, Getting There: A Report for National College Week. Among African American students, about 14 percent – or 222,000 – attend historically Black colleges and universities, the department said.
The report also makes the argument that a rigorous high school curriculum is more likely to spur Black and Hispanic students to succeed in college. Those who completed a high-level math course while still in high school were more likely to complete a bachelor’s degree than those with a less rigorous course schedule. Elsewhere, the study also found:
* women represent 56 percent of all college students and will receive more than half of all bachelor’s and master’s degrees;
* average aid per full-time student has increased from $3,614 in 1990 to $6,085 in 1999; and
about 13 million students are eligible for the HOPE and Lifelong Learning tax credits enacted in 1997. These students could receive about $7 billion through these programs.
For more information, visit the ED Web site at

Education Department’s Revolving  Door Continues

WASHINGTON — The federal government has a new top-ranking higher education official, while another is planning his departure.
Before adjourning for the year, the Senate confirmed the nomination of A. Lee Fritschler as the new assistant secretary for postsecondary education. Fritschler, the former president of Dickinson College, replaces David Longanecker, who left to head a Western regional higher education organization. Fritschler has day-to-day responsibility for managing programs such as TRIO, GEAR UP and the Title III Black college program.
But ED will lose one key advocate with the resignation of Marshall Smith, the acting deputy secretary of ED since 1996. The Senate has refused to confirm Smith for a permanent appointment to the deputy secretary job because of criticism over his roles in the direct loan program and in national testing initiatives. Smith plans to return to Stanford University, where he was an education professor and dean. ED has not named a replacement for Smith.

Feds Say Law School Exam Unfair to Disabled

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department says the Law School Admission Test, required by 196 law schools, is unfair to the physically disabled because they are denied extra time to take it.
The department’s civil rights division filed a lawsuit early this month in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia against the Law School Admission Council, which annually administers the half-day standardized test of reading and verbal reasoning skills to 104,000 law school applicants.
The government alleged that the council violated the Americans with Disabilities Act when it denied four people with physical disabilities, including cerebral palsy and juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, extra time on the multiple-choice portion of the test. The test includes five 35-minute sections of the multiple-choice questions and one 30-minute writing sample.
The council is a nonprofit corporation whose members are the law schools that require applicants to take the test. Of those schools, 181 are in the United States and 15 are in Canada.
The disabilities law requires private firms and organizations that give admission tests for postsecondary schooling to offer those exams in a place and manner that will accurately reflect the applicant’s ability and aptitude for the training or career they seek rather than reflecting the person’s disability. Adjusting the time for the test is a common modification for the disabled, the government said.
The Justice Department said it filed suit after extensive efforts to negotiate a voluntary settlement failed.

House Panel Grills Education Department on Accounting

WASHINGTON — The Education Department, unable to give a Congressional panel an accounting of disputed parts of a $32 billion budget and billions more in student loans it manages, insisted it broke no laws and could overcome its accounting troubles.
“Our auditors identified issues we must address, but they did not report that any funds were lost, misallocated or stolen,” Marshall Smith, a deputy to Education Secretary Richard Riley, told the oversight and investigations subcommittee of the House Education and Workforce Committee earlier this month.
Testimony came a few weeks after the department, one of four federal agencies unable to audit its 1998 books, became the last of the 24 agencies to submit reports to the agency that oversees federal auditing.
Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R-Mich., chairman of the investigations panel, said the department, with its 1998 accounts in disarray, could be wasting millions of taxpayer dollars meant for education programs. He read internal department e-mails and other documents that recounted duplicate payments to grant winners and even an $800 million college loan to a single student.
Smith blamed a new accounting system that turned out to be faulty, and new demands to prepare more financial statements. But he disputed allegations that the disputed accounts and the lack of an audit threatens money for federal programs for kindergarten-through-12th grade schoolchildren and college students.            

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