Editor’s note: This blog post was co-authored by Dr. Luis Ponjuan.
There is growing concern among educators, researchers, and many local communities over the educational plight of male students of color. Postsecondary enrollment patterns over the past two decades highlight a disturbing trend that traditional college-aged males compared to their female peers are less likely to pursue a postsecondary education. This downward enrollment trend is more pronounced for men of color. Coupled with this “silent educational crisis,” we find that this cohort of male students of color has a greater probability than other peer groups to become incarcerated, employed in low-paying jobs, or have higher mortality rates. While this may paint a sobering picture of our current generation of male youth of color, there is a growing groundswell of support from different stakeholders that want to address this important crisis. We think it is vital to know who is at risk, why this issue is important to our educational communities, and what is being done to raise an awareness of this issue at the national and community levels.
Who is at risk?
While there has been considerable attention on African-American males in higher education, less attention has been given to other male ethnic groups that are, in some respects, faring worse than their African-American male peers. Scholars, such as Dr. James Moore at The Ohio State University, Dr. Lamont Flowers at Clemson University, Dr. Larry Rowley at the University of Michigan, and Dr. Shaun Harper at the University of Pennsylvania, continue to provide important scholarly work on African-American males in higher education. However, researchers are also starting to focus on the educational experiences of other underrepresented male ethnic groups. Some of these scholars include: Dr. Lee Bitsoi at Georgetown University who examines Native American males, Dr. Robert Teranishi at New York University who examines Asian/Pacific Islander male students, and Dr. Victor Saenz at the University of Texas at Austin and Dr. Julie Figueroa at California State, Sacramento who both examine Latino males. The prevailing consensus among these researchers is that these other male ethnic groups face similar daunting challenges along their respective educational pathways.
Why is this important?
This silent crisis is worthy of increased national awareness due to the broader and challenging economic and social justice issues we face as a diverse democracy. We recognize that our future economic prosperity is directly related to expanding a workforce that includes a diverse and educated pool of well-trained workers. To that end, this impending workforce demand requires postsecondary institutions (e.g., two and four year) to increase enrollment and train the current and future generations of male students of color to become vital contributors to our national economic prosperity.
Next, we also suggest that this important social justice issue is not at the expense of female students. As educational scholars, we do not condone a zero-sum approach to this complex educational issue. That is, we strongly support educational initiatives that continue to improve access and success for females in higher education, but we also accept the reality there has been less awareness of the educational issues faced by male students of color.
What is being done about this educational crisis?
There are new and ongoing national and local community outreach initiatives that provide a vision and hope for this silent educational crisis. Next week an important event on January 26 in Washington, D.C., sponsored by The College Board Advocacy & the Congressional TriCaucus will convene a panel of experts to discuss the College Board Advocacy new comprehensive report: The Educational Crisis Facing Young Men of Color. The national discussion of this timely and thought-provoking report will greatly increase the awareness and critical dialogue about the absence of men of color in higher education.
In addition, the American Association of Hispanics in Higher Education national conference in Costa Mesa, Calif., in March 2010 will also sponsor an educational conference track focused on Latino males in education. At the local community level there are community leaders such as Dr. Roy Jones, director of the Call Me Mister program at Clemson University, and Dr. Robert Rivas, founder of Encuentros and director of the Child Studies Center in San Diego, Calif., who are visionary leaders developing dynamic educational programs focused on male students of color educational experiences.
In an effort to support men of color, we urge faculty, administrators, and policy makers to pay attention to the experiences of these individuals from their entry into the academic pipeline through the day they graduate. With empowering support and guidance, these men will develop, grow and prosper. They will act as role models for future men of color and will contribute in meaningful ways. We ask for this added attention not only to bolster our nation’s economic prosperity but in an effort to rectify the wrongs of the past. Giving opportunity and making these young men of color’s dreams become reality is the ideal form of social justice.
Dr. Marybeth Gasman is an associate professor in the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania and the author of “Envisioning Black Colleges: A History of the United Negro College Fund.”
Dr. Luis Ponjuan is an assistant professor in the Department of Educational Administration and Policy in the College of Education at the University of Florida. His primary research interests are in academic faculty retention and development, diversity issues of gender and ethnicity in higher education, evaluation and assessment, and research methodology.