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Wake Forest University Does Away with SAT Requirement June 6, 2008

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Note: The Black on Campus blog has now moved to blackoncampus.com. This is an excerpt. Read the entire post at Blackoncampus.com.

A shout out to the Schools Matter blog for it’s June 4, 2008 post on Wake Forest University’s recent decision to abandon its SAT Requirement.

In a post titled, “Only Bad Reasons Remaining to Require the SAT” Jim Horn, the Schools Matter blogger, sums up the problematic nature of the College Board’s “aptitude” test and its deleterious effect on educational equity:

Clearly, the SAT has outlived its reason for being in the first place, which was institutionalized ostensibly to create the basis for an objective measure from which to establish an intellectual meritocracy and to predict the success rates of incoming freshmen. With scores simply mirroring disparities in family income, and with women, who score lower than men, finishing college at a higher rate than their counterparts, the SAT has failed on both counts.

[Read the rest of this post at Blackoncampus.com]

Posted by Ajuan Mance

Major Banks Back Away from Loans to Community College Students June 6, 2008

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Note: The Black on Campus blog has now moved to blackoncampus.com. This is an excerpt. Read the entire post at Blackoncampus.com.

Today’s New York Times reports that the current credit crisis has triggered an unprecedented retreat from community colleges by several of the nation’s major banks. These banks include Citibank, JP Morgan Chase, SunTrust and PNC. Banks have also begun to drop certain 4-year institutions, including less competitive and for-profit schools…

[Read the rest of this post at Blackoncampus.com]

Black Doctorates Clustered in Education, Ed.D. at Risk May 13, 2008

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In Feburary a report on Black graduate students in the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education moved me to blog on the clustering of Black graduate students in the fields of Education and Business. You can read that blog post HERE. This issue made the news again just last week when the Baltimore Times published “Fewer Blacks Earning Degrees,” an analysis of the current state of African Americans and doctoral education, written by education advocate Jayne Matthews. Click on the highlighted title to read this article in its entirety.

Early in her piece, Matthews cites the familiar statistic, that 36.5 percent of African Americans with doctorates hold those degrees in the field of education. She then goes on to explore some of the more disturbing implications of Black clustering in that field. Matthews reveals that the pursuit of the Ed.D. as a professional degree (commonly used as a stepping stone into principalships, school superintendent positions, and certain college administrative posts) has prompted a reconsideration of the necessity of pre-administrative training at the doctoral level, noting that Arthur Levine, president of the highly influential Columbia Teacher’s College, has suggested removing the dissertation component of the Ed.D., which would effectively eliminate it as a doctoral degree option, and replacing it with a professionally-oriented M.Ed. Matthew’s writes:

Arthur Levine, president of the Teachers College at Columbia University, has proposed that Ed.D. degrees be abolished and be replaced with a master’s degree in educational administration. He believes that people who aspire to be school superintendents or college administrators are wasting their time doing a research dissertation on a topic that will have little or no bearing on the job that they plan to hold.

The effect on the numbers of Black doctoral numbers would be dramatic:

Should the Levine view prevail, the black percentage of all doctoral awards would fall dramatically. If we eliminate educational doctorates from the 2006 statistics, we find that blacks earned only 4.8 percent of all doctorates in fields other than education.

While the sharp downward shift in black percentage of doctoral awards would be troubling on many levels, it would not have much of an effect on the real-life experiences of Black faculty and students on college and university campuses, where the clustering of Black doctoral degree holders in primary and secondary school administrative posts has had little or no direct impact on the number of Black instructors that undergraduate and graduate students encounter in their college classrooms.

It is possible to argue that there should already have been an M.Ed. oriented specifically toward to aspiring administrators, possibly along the lines of an M.B.A., but for education professionals rather than business professional. Then, as is the case in the field of business, the doctorate in education would be a Ph.D., oriented specifically toward those who have an interest in college-level teaching and research.

As a Black academic I have to wonder, though, whether or not the popularity of the Ed.D. among African Americans has anything to do with some institutions’ willingness to consider doing away with it. This very question may seem fraught with racial paranoia; but given the history of Black people in the academy, to ignore such a possibilty would be foolish.

Posted by Ajuan Mance

Black Firsts, May 2008: Lt. Cmdr. Wesley A. Brown May 9, 2008

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“There’s no greater honor, obviously, for an alumni to have a building named for him, one that he hasn’t donated the money for.” — Ret. Lt. Cmdr. Wesley A. Brown in the Baltimore Sun

Ret. Lt. Cmdr. Wesley A. Brown

A number of institutions are celebrating this commencement season by naming Black scholars to leadership positions that African Americans have never previously held or by honoring their institution’s Black pioneers. Over the next few days, I will be posting news of some of these exciting milestones under the heading “Black Firsts, May 2008.”

The series continues with this brief report on the U.S. Naval Academy and its upcoming dedication of the new Wesley Brown Field House, named for its first African American graduate.

The dedication will take place this coming Saturday (May 10, 2008 ) and Ret. Lt. Commander Wesley A. Brown, the 81 year-old guest of honor, will be in attendance, along with a number of family members and friends. A member of the Academy’s class of 1949, Brown was the sixth African American to enter the Naval Academy, but only the first to graduate. Like previous Black enrollees, Brown endured isolation and harrassment but, he is not bitter. The Baltimore Sun reports that, “Brown has said in previous interviews that he did not recall many of the bad experiences at the academy and prefers to talk about the friends he had there.”

Midshipman Wesley A. Brown, ca. 1949

The Sun reports that Brown, “entered the Navy’s civil engineer corps after graduation. He retired from the Navy in 1969.” Brown feels fortunate to be alive to experience this dedication and to share it with his family. The Sun explains the health crisis that nearly prevented him from reaching this moment:

Brown said he was taken aback several years agowhen someone from the academy called to say officials planned to name an athletic complex after him. Brown said he initially thought the caller was a prankster or a telemarketer.

Two months later, he suffered a heart attack at his home, and doctors told his wife that he would likely die before morning. Their four children flew in from other parts of the country to be at his side.

Brown said he is simply thankful to be alive for Saturday’s ceremony.

He has spent recent weeks finalizing the guest list, which has grown to 70 family members and more than 300 friends.

The Wesley Brown Field House is a state-of-the-art athletic facility. HomeTownAnnapolis.com describes the $52 million, 140,000 square foot sports complex:

The facility includes track and field areas, such as sand pits for broad jumps, that can be covered by a retractable artificial turf football field.

When being put in place or retracted, the 76,000-square-foot, 100,000-pound carpet floats on a bed of forced air created by fans hidden in the floor. The goal is to reduce friction and make the turf last longer, said retired Cmdr. Tom McKavitt, an associate athletic director at the academy.

Cmdr. McKavitt said the facility will house the men and women’s cross country and track teams, the women’s lacrosse team and the sprint football team, as well as supporting 16 club sports.

“The facility will contribute to the overall physical mission at the Naval Academy,” he said.

Cmdr. McKavitt said the building’s wall overlooking the Santee Basin is designed to serve as dike in case of severe flooding.

The wall is mostly blast-resistant glass and is designed to reduce the need for artificial lighting. It is tinted toward the top to make the building easier to cool, according to Lt. Bob Kendall, the project supervisor.

The building has its own storm water management system that includes channeling run-off into flower beds, he said.

Posted by Ajuan Mance

Black Firsts, May 2008: Rev. Brian K. Blount May 8, 2008

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“The seminary’s task, then, is to sear the promise of God’s protective power and transformative capability so deeply into your hearts and minds that when you step out into the lead of God’s people, your shepherding, driving focus will always be more on what can be than on what is.” –Rev. Brian K. Blount

Rev. Brian K. Blount (left) during his inauguration as the president of Union Theological Seminary.

 

 

A number of institutions are celebrating this commencement season by naming Black scholars and administrators to positions that they have never previously held or by honoring their institution’s Black pioneers. Over the next few days, I will be posting news of some of these exciting milestones under the heading “Black Firsts, May 2008.”

The series begins with this brief report on Union Theological Seminary and its installation of Rev. Brian K. Blount as the first ever Black person to lead the institution.

5/07/09 — Rev. Brian K. Blount was inaugurated as the first African American president of Union Theological Seminary & Presbyterian School of Christian Education. As the first Black president in its 196-year history, Rev. Blount also became the first African American “to head a seminary of the Presbyterian Church (USA).” Rev. Blount holds was educated at the College of William and Mary (B.A.), Princeton Theological Seminary (M.Div.), and Emory University (Ph.D). He has authored and co-authored several books, including: Making Room At The Table: An Invitation to Multicultural Worship, edited with Lenora Tubbs Tisdale (D.Min.’79), Westminster John Knox Press, 2000;  Cultural Interpretation: Reorienting New Testament Criticism, Fortress Press, 1995; Then The Whisper Put On Flesh: New Testament Ethics in An African American Context, Abingdon Press, 2001; Can I Get A Witness? Reading Revelation Through African-American Culture, Westminster John Knox Press, 2005; True to Our Native Land: An African American New Testament Commentary, general editor, Fortress Press, 2007; and several others.

Posted by Ajuan Mance

Rap Scion Scores USC Scholarship May 5, 2008

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Rapper Lil’ Romeo (right) and father Master P at a recent photo op.

 

In researching Black rappers who graduated from college I have encountered a peculiar phenomenon. There is, I have been told, a tendency among college-educated rappers to downplay or even lie about their academic credentials. The thinking is, apparently, that admitting to having a diploma can jeopardize your street cred with the (mostly white) fans.

Enter, then, Lil’ Romeo, son of southern fried rap mogul Master P and a hip hop artist in his own right. According to Sportswrap/berecruited.com Li’l Romeo committed in mid-April to play basketball for USC. There has been speculation that Lil’ Romeo was recruited primarily because of his strong connection to best friend DeMar DeRozan, currently the nation’s number 2-ranked high school prospect. Both will be enrolling at the University and suiting up for basketball practice together, beginning next fall. USC coaches, however, have denied that Percy “Lil’ Romeo” Miller and DeRozan are a package deal.

As for Romeo’s rapper father, Master P, he seems to be as interested in the opportunities that USC will provide for his son off-court. Sportswrap interviewed the senior Percy Miller about Li’l Romeo’s decision to attend and play for USC:

“It’s great for him,” said Master P, who coaches his son and Derozan on the P. Miller Ballers in the spring and summer. “USC is a great school and I felt like he made a great decision.”

The younger Miller will focus solely on school and basketball for the next few years, according to Master P.

“He can be polishing up his film career at USC,” Master P said. “When he’s finished after four years at 21 or 22 years old, he’ll hopefully be able to take either basketball to the next level or Hollywood to the next level.”

“This is what it’s all about,” he added. “I’m just glad he has the opportunity to do both.”

At this point Lil’ Romeo will have no choice but to acknowledge that he is a college-educated rapper. How this will influence his street cred, however, remains to be seen. Perhaps, in attending college, but on a Division I basketball scholarship, he has happened upon the one way that a Black male rap artist can hit the books and still be perceived as “keepin’ it real.”

Posted by Ajuan Mance

Wall Street Journal Tackles Racial Climate on Duke Campus May 4, 2008

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Yesterday’s Wall Street Journal includes a fascinating article on relations between Black and white students on integrated campuses. The piece, titled “Race on Campus: Beyond Obama the Unity Stops” and written by Jonathan Kaufman, moves beyond the familiar complaints about Black students’ self-segregation, to explore some of the real reasons that students of all ethnicities remain reluctant to reach beyond the comfort of their same-race social circles.

Kaufman is interested in the way that tBlack and white college students have together in support the Obama campaign, and yet,

[…]after classes — and after the occasional Obama rally — most black and white students on college campuses go their separate ways, living in separate dormitories, joining separate fraternities and sororities and attending separate parties.

Most intriguing is what Kaufman’s interview with Duke sociologist Eduardo Bonilla-Silva reveals about the different ways that Black and white students perceive even the minimal amount of social contact that these two groups have on campus. Kaufman writes,

Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, a Duke sociologist, asked his white students how many had a black friend on campus. All the white students raised their hands.

He then asked the black students how many of them had a white friend on campus. None of them raised their hands.

The more he probed, Mr. Bonilla-Silva says, the more he realized that the definition of friendship was different. The white students considered a black a “friend” if they played basketball with him or shared a class. “It was more of an acquaintance,” recalls Mr. Bonilla-Silva.

Black students, by contrast, defined a friend as someone they would invite to their home for dinner. By that measure, none of the students had friends from the opposite race. Mr. Bonilla-Silva says when white college students were asked in series of 1998 surveys about the five people with whom they interacted most on a daily basis, about 68% said none of them were black. When asked if they had invited a black person to lunch or dinner recently, about 68% said “no.” He says his own research and more recent studies show similar results.

Bonilla-Silva’s findings suggest a trend that has also been identified in other settings, in which white Americans and Black Americans have very different perceptions of the amount of contact that constitutes acceptable integration. On average, Black people’s expectations for what real integration and real cross-racial connections should feel like are much higher than most white people’s.

This all reminds me of a study done back in 1978 and described more recently in Douglas Massey and Nancy Denton’s American Apartheid (Harvard UP, 1993 [see pages 92-93]). In the 1978 Detroit Area study, a Black population of 21% was the threshold at which a neighborhood became unacceptable to a critical mass of whites. Once a neighborhood became 21% Black, 50% of whites surveyed would be unwilling to move in; despite being less than a quarter of the overall population, 21% was simply too intergrated for half of the white survey respondents. For the Black people surveyed, on the other hand, integration meant a racial mix of somewhere between 15% and 70%, “with 50% being most desirable” (Denton and Massey 93).

The disparity between Black and white perceptions of integration, despite both populations’ common committment to integration, is not limited to Detroit in the late 1970s. Many studies carried out since 1978, in cities across the nation have recorded a similar divide between Black and white perceptions of this this concept (integration). A 1988 Harris Poll sums up the divide between Black and white feelings on this subject quite succintly. In this survey a full 69% of Black respondents believed that the different races in the U.S. were better off living side by side, while only 50% of white respondents expressed this belief.

In 2008, the divide between Black and white perceptions of cross-racial friendship that Kaufman found on the Duke University campus tells a similar story to that which was documented in these earlier studies about the divide between Black and white perceptions of neighborhood integration. Stated simply, many in the white majority are comfortable with considerably less contact with Black people and in considerably more superficial ways that Black people are, and thus Black and white expectations for what true integration would look like are very much in conflict with one another.

For college campuses to reflect the type of racial and ethnic connections that the Obama campaign seems to foreshadow, then Black and white students (and Asian, Native American, and Latin American students) will have to move toward a common understanding of what true integration would look like. On majority white campuses, the racial climate is largely be dictated by the preferences of the white majority. If a cordial high five with a Black guy after an intramural basketball game feels like a true cross-racial connection to students in the white majority, then cross-racial friendships will, for the most part, remain stalled at that point.

Posted by Ajuan Mance

Congress Takes Action to Preserve Access to Student Loans May 1, 2008

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For T.S. Eliot, April may well be the “cruellest month,” but April 2008 has turned out to be a pretty good month for college students, at least if proposed federal legislation is taken into account.

Last week I blogged on proposed legislation in the House aimed at making at least some textbooks more affordable to college students. This week Congress is taking more action in support of students, in the form of proposed legislation aimed at protecting student loans from some of the volatility of the current economic conditions.

Bloomberg.com describes the legislation, which has the full support of the White House:

Congress gave final approval to legislation designed to ensure that turmoil in the credit markets doesn’t cause a shortage in student loans. President George W. Bush plans to sign it into law.

The measure would inject liquidity into the student loan market by allowing the U.S. Department of Education to buy federally guaranteed student loans that lenders haven’t been able to sell to investors.

The House voted 388-21 to ratify minor changes made by the Senate to a bill that passed the House last month.

“In order to ensure that Americans can continue to compete in the global marketplace, the federal government has an obligation to encourage and support people pursuing higher education,” Bush said in a statement issued by the White House. “By granting the Department of Education greater authority to purchase federal student loans, today’s action should ease the anxiety many students may feel about their ability to finance their education this fall.”

House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller said during floor debate today that students haven’t yet been hurt by the tightening credit market.

“We believe that it is only prudent to prepare for that possibility, that the ongoing stress in the nation’s financial markets could jeopardize access to student loans,” Miller said.

The legislation is intended to address a crisis in the market that has forced Citigroup Inc.’s Student Loan Corp., SLM Corp. and about 50 other lenders to stop writing some forms of student loans. The companies cite increased borrowing costs, cuts in government subsidies for education loans and a lack of investor interest in securities backed by loans.

Lenders’ Costs Higher

Without government action, demand for federally backed student loans would outstrip supply, industry officials said. About 7 million borrowers will need more than $68 billion in federal loans this academic year, according to Education Department estimates.

Congress gave final approval to legislation designed to ensure that turmoil in the credit markets doesn’t cause a shortage in student loans. President George W. Bush plans to sign it into law.

The measure would inject liquidity into the student loan market by allowing the U.S. Department of Education to buy federally guaranteed student loans that lenders haven’t been able to sell to investors.

The House voted 388-21 to ratify minor changes made by the Senate to a bill that passed the House last month.

“In order to ensure that Americans can continue to compete in the global marketplace, the federal government has an obligation to encourage and support people pursuing higher education,” Bush said in a statement issued by the White House. “By granting the Department of Education greater authority to purchase federal student loans, today’s action should ease the anxiety many students may feel about their ability to finance their education this fall.”

House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller said during floor debate today that students haven’t yet been hurt by the tightening credit market.

“We believe that it is only prudent to prepare for that possibility, that the ongoing stress in the nation’s financial markets could jeopardize access to student loans,” Miller said.

The legislation is intended to address a crisis in the market that has forced Citigroup Inc.’s Student Loan Corp., SLM Corp. and about 50 other lenders to stop writing some forms of student loans. The companies cite increased borrowing costs, cuts in government subsidies for education loans and a lack of investor interest in securities backed by loans.

Lenders’ Costs Higher

Without government action, demand for federally backed student loans would outstrip supply, industry officials said. About 7 million borrowers will need more than $68 billion in federal loans this academic year, according to Education Department estimates.

While a number of the nation’s most selective colleges and universities have eliminated loan aid from their financial packages, most schools (and therefore most students) continue to rely on loans as a crucial tool in making higher education affordable to the broadest range of undergraduates. This move by Congress to preserve access to this important funding source will ensure that, at least for the forseeable future, middle- and working-class students will continue to benefit from this essential key to meeting college costs.

Posted by Ajuan Mance

Your Black History Horoscope: Were You Born in 1966? April 28, 2008

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I was. Lyndon Johnson was in office, the number one song of the year was The Monkees’ “I’m a Believer,” and A Man for all Seasons won the Oscar for Best Picture; but on college campuses another kind of history was being made.

Black History Horoscope* for people born in 1966:

Historical Happennings in 1966 (from TwilightandReason.com):

  • Dr. Samuel P. Massie becomes the first African American professor at the U.S. Naval Academy (Chemistry).
  • On June 3rd of this year, Maxwell Scarlett becomes the first African American student to graduate from the University of Texas at Arlington (B.S. in Biology).
  • Merle J. Smith becomes the first African American cadet to graduate from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, CT.
  • The Black Panther Party is founded in Oakland, CA by Bobby Seale and Huey P. Newton. The two met at a rally opposing the blockade against Cuba while Seale was a student at Merritt College and Newton was enrolled at Oakland City Law School.

Horoscope Summary

The year of your birth (and mine) is characterized by its the pioneering spirit, creative political thinking, leadership, and sheer courage of those African American students and teachers who were creating change in their community, on their campuses, and in the nation at large. You can make the social and political changes that you desire to see in your world, but you must to bring the creativity and courage of Bobby Seale and Huey Newton. They used their innovative vision of African Americans turning to meet the violent racial terrorism of the 1960s with an attitude of entitlement to bear arms for self-defense to rock the nation and to truly transform the way that African Americans were perceived, both by Black folks and non-Blacks alike.

By the same token, you must also look beyond those places where African Americans are most commonly found if you are to make truly broad and lasting social change. Consider Merle J. Smith and Maxwell Scarlett who sought to pursue their educational dreams and goals in places where Black folks had previously been unwelcome. Also remember Dr. Samuel P. Massie who not only sought to enter a profession (academia) that to this remains relatively inaccessible to Black people, and in a discipline in which African Americans continue to be quite rare, but who also pursued his career at an institution in which Black people had never previously served as full-time, permanent faculty members.

The fact that you were born during that year already makes 1966 a special time for you. Pioneers and innovators like Newton and Massie have paved the way for you to make the occasional of your birth a fortunate occurance for us all.

 

 In 1966 Merle J. Smith became the first African American to graduate from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. Today he is General Counsel at a maritime security firm.

 
*Your Black History Horoscope is not based on the month and the day that you were born, but on the year. The Black History Horoscope looks at the year in which you were born, and — based on the Black history being made during that time — assigns a set of qualities and values that distinguish the year of your birth.
Black History Horoscopes seeks not to predict the future, but to issue a challenge, to live up to and exceed the characteristics of the Black historical innovaters and change makers of the year of your birth, and to perpetuate the values manifest in their actions and impact.

Posted by Ajuan Mance

Congress Acts to Stem the Tide of Rising Textbook Costs April 25, 2008

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Getting into college is only the first step. To successfully complete an undergraduate program a student must have textbooks; and every student (past or present) who has been all or partly responsible for shouldering the cost of their books knows that simply being able to afford the high cost of college textbooks can be a challenge in and of itself.

The high cost of textbooks disproportionately impacts Black, Latin American, and Native American students, the great majority of whom receive financial aid, and a significant proportion of whom are first-generation college matriculants. For these students, the exorbitant price of some college texts poses a much greater financial hardship than decreasing the amount of money available for clothing and entertainment. Such students often fund their school books through part-time or full-time work, the proceeds from which must also cover housing, food, tuition and — for these often uninsured students — any healthcare costs. For students with children, the financial hardship of inflated textbook prices is amplified.

The shocking cost of many college textbooks also conveys a powerfully elitist message about the culture of higher education, a message that can undermine the success of students for whom the college environment — with it’s upper-middle class and 2nd- and 3rd-generation college matriculants — can feel like an alien environment in which the scholarship student, the student of color, and/or the first-generation student is an interloper or imposter. For these and other economically marginalized students, the experience of walking into the campus bookstore and realizing that the price of the required texts exceeds his or her available funds can be a sad reinforcement of that student’s deepest doubts about whether or not he or she even belongs in school.

In a surprising but welcome move, however, the U.S. House of Representatives has taken important steps toward alleviating the burden of textbook costs for all students on campus. An editorial in today’s New York Times describes the magnitude of this problem and Congress’s pending legislation on the issue:

College students and their families are rightly outraged about the bankrupting costs of textbooks that have nearly tripled since the 1980s, mainly because of marginally useful CD-ROMs and other supplements. A bill pending in Congress would require publishers to sell “unbundled” versions of the books — minus the pricey add-ons. Even more important, it would require publishers to reveal book prices in marketing material so that professors could choose less-expensive titles.

Like the Times editors, I agree that this is “a good first step”; but unbundling college textbooks will only address one aspect of the problem. Even unbundled, textbooks are grotesquely overpriced, with some books costing $100.00 or more, and all of this for a book that will have little resale value, because students in subsequent years will likely be forced to purchased a newer edition.

The Times editorial poses several possible solutions to this problem:

[…] colleges and universities will need to embrace new methods of textbook development and distribution if they want to rein in runaway costs. That means using digital textbooks, which can often be presented online free of charge or in hard copies for as little as one-fifth the cost of traditional books. The digital books can also be easily customized and updated.

The editorial also highlights some initiatives already in place to reduce the cost to students of required course materials:

Schools are beginning to balk at outrageous pricing. Rice University offers textbooks for some classes free online and charges a nominal fee for the printed version. A new company called Flat World Knowledge, based in Nyack, N.Y., plans to offer online textbooks free and hopes to make its profit by selling supplemental materials like study guides and hard copies printed on demand.

In my opinion, schools cannot embrace textbook cost reform fast enough. Politicians, pundits, and social activists across the nation are decrying Black students’ alleged belief that education is a “white thing.” I do not, in fact, believe that this is true; but if it was — if the prevailing belief among Black youth was, indeed, that book learnin’ is a white thing — then I say, who can blame them. Nothing conveys that education is for rich, white people only, like the discovery that the cost of a single textbook for your calculus course is $178.00.

Posted by Ajuan Mance