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Technology 'gap' seen at black colleges; Study finds students, schools not up to speed


WASHINGTON -- Students at historically black colleges and universities have less access than most other students to the computer technology that is a key to today's cutting-edge jobs, experts said this week.

Waving the list of "America's 100 most-wired colleges" from the latest issue of Yahoo! Internet Life magazine, technology consultant Larry Blackwell of WANlink Communications of Atlanta exclaimed, "Not one is a historically black college or university."

More evidence for the technology gap comes from a study comparing last year's "most-wired" schools and the 118 historically or predominantly black institutions in the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education, which is holding its annual conference here this week.

The study showed:

In the black schools, 12.5 percent of students and 71 percent of faculty members had personal computers. In the "most-wired" schools, more than 75 percent of students and 100 percent of faculty members had PCs.

About 63 percent of the buildings in the black colleges were wired for modern voice, data and video systems, compared to all the buildings in the wired colleges.

About 10 percent of the classes in the black colleges used e-mail or the Internet, compared to more than half the courses in the other colleges.

"Things have improved since then at many historically black colleges and universities," said Ramon Harris, technology director for the Executive Leadership Foundation in Washington, which paid for the study and is supported by senior African-Americans at major corporations.

"But it's like the auto industry," he said yesterday. "As you move ahead, the competition also keeps moving ahead."

Anxious to "close the gap," the black educators laced this week's conference schedule with sessions on technology. The experts at the sessions repeatedly mentioned a handful of black institutions -- including Florida A&M;, Howard University, Livingstone College, Stillman College and Johnson C. Smith University -- as being ahead of their black peers.

Pub Date: 4/09/99

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