ASU gets $1.7 million of Ayers money

Published 12:00 am Sunday, October 30, 2005

LORMAN &8212; As far as President Clinton Bristow is concerned, Alcorn State University got the good end of the deal.

In exchange for a heaping pile of money from the Ayers discrimination settlement, his university had to show diversity in enrollment at a rate of 10 percent for three straight years &8212; something Bristow wanted to do anyway.

&8220;I said at that point, you&8217;ve got a deal,&8221; Bristow said of discussions after the Ayers settlement. &8220;That&8217;s what we were about anyway. It wasn&8217;t taking us away from where we wanted to go. I said this is a bingo.&8221;

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And now, he&8217;s cashed in on that bingo to the tune of $1.7 million.

The state College Board made the deal final Thursday and by Friday there was money in the bank.

ASU is the first of the state&8217;s three historically black universities to receive their portion of the Ayers money.

The Ayers case started in 1975 when Jake Ayers Sr. filed a lawsuit against the state&8217;s colleges saying the three black universities had not received the same funding as the other schools.

Eventually the three schools will receive $70 million. ASU&8217;s portion will be $28 million over 11 years. Jackson State University and Mississippi Valley State University have not yet met the 10 percent diversity standard.

Now that Alcorn has received the first installment, the others will come at a yearly rate.

&8220;It&8217;s a very positive occurrence for Alcorn State University,&8221; Bristow said. &8220;You don&8217;t hit these kind of milestones every day.

&8220;The conclusion of the case says that a very contentious period in the university&8217;s history is over. Now we can focus on positioning the university to be the university of choice for everyone in southwest Mississippi.&8221;

And Natchez is at the center of the new ASU world, Bristow said.

Heavy recruiting of non-black students in the Natchez area is a major reason ASU achieved its diversity goal when it did, he said.

The still new Masters of Business Administration program on the Natchez campus is aimed at bringing in a wide range of students, and many Natchez Co-Lin students transfer to ASU when they leave the community college.

The school spent lots of advertising dollars in Natchez and then started marketing outside of Mississippi.

&8220;We knew we had to overcome a historical stigma in the state,&8221; Bristow said. &8220;By going out of state and getting other race students, they didn&8217;t come with that stigma.&8221;

Now the school is remarketing that success recruiting non-black students by targeting the friends and families of the other race graduates.

With fresh money in the bank, the school&8217;s administrators will start working on a spending plan, Bristow said. The $1.7 cannot be spent, but goes into an endowment. The interest from the settlement can be spent.

Diversity was coming to ASU with or without Ayers, though, Bristow said.

&8220;We used the Ayers case as leverage to say, since we are on this trend, let&8217;s keep going down this path and their should be a bonus for us.&8221;