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I don’t quote Ronald Reagan often, but the annual sight of parents taking new freshmen to college always reminds me of one of his sayings. Negotiating arms-control agreements with the Soviet Union, Reagan said that his principle was, “Trust — but verify”: We wouldn’t sign a treaty with the Soviets if there weren’t a basic foundation of trust — but make sure they’re keeping their end of the agreement, and be prepared to act if they aren’t.

That’s also my advice for parents of entering freshmen: Trust — but verify.

September will mark my 41st year as an observer of college students. I taught literature and English composition for 20 years at Morehouse and Spelman colleges in Atlanta and served for seven years as president of Dillard University in New Orleans. Now I’m president of the United Negro College Fund, following the progress of the 20,000 or so freshmen who attend our member colleges and receive our scholarships, and I see statistics from students at all schools.

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