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A federal judge approved a settlement Thursday that would end decades of court-ordered desegregation and racial quotas at Tennessee’s public colleges and universities. “This is truly a historic day,” Tennessee Attorney General Paul Summers said. “It is no end-all, be-all to end desegregation in higher education in Tennessee, but it is a case that will help.” The original lawsuit was filed 32 years ago by Rita Sanders Geier, then an instructor at predominantly black Tennessee State University. She sued the state to end what she called a “dual system of higher education” and to get more money for her school. In 1984, U.S. District Judge Thomas Wiseman ordered that racial quotas be set for admissions to Tennessee State and nine other schools and that the federal government monitor desegregation efforts. The agreement Wiseman signed Thursday would require the state to invest up to $75 million in Tennessee State programs over the next 10 years, and would end quotas and court supervision within five years. The most widely criticized quota — which opponents called divisive and unrealistic — required Tennessee State to increase its white enrollment to 50 percent. About 16 percent of students at the school are white. The settlement also requires more scholarships and recruiting for white students to attend Tennessee State and black students to attend predominantly white schools. Geier, now a 56-year-old associate commissioner of the Social Security Administration in Washington, attended the court hearing Thursday and said she was pleased with the settlement. “Tennessee has learned a lot in 32 years,” she said. “People are very focused and have committed their resources to making this work.”

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