The federal government tried last month to lure four Protestant colleges from their segregationist ways. It moved to cut off National Defense Education Act student loans, which have totaled $1,491,832 at the four schools.

It was the government’s first move on higher education under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which forbids racial discrimination in federally assisted programs.Section 601 reads: “No person in the United States shall, on the ground of race, color, or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.” The colleges that refused to sign compliance with the act were, in order of size: Bob Jones University, Greenville, South Carolina; Mississippi College, Clinton, Mississippi; Sweet Briar (Virginia) College; and Free Will Baptist Bible College, Nashville, Tennessee. Also challenged was a non-church junior college for men, Marion (Alabama) Institute.

Several other schools also have refused to pledge non-discrimination, but the four initial test cases were believed to be the most intransigent. The four situations vary:

Sweet Briar, a fashionable women’s college, is not church-related. But it belongs to the Council of Protestant Colleges and Universities, and its charter specifies Christian purpose. The founder’s will limits admission to “white girls and young women.” Last year a state judge rejected the college’s request to have the will thrown out. Sweet Briar then signed a compliance form, but the government considers it unacceptable.

Mississippi College, the state’s oldest, is owned and governed by the Mississippi Baptist Convention of the Southern Baptist Convention. College President ...

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