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Disparities of African American Men and Obtaining a College Education

Dr. Hamilton Raymond

It is evident that the low African American male student graduation rates at a predominantly Black institution in the northeastern United States continue to be a concern for higher education administrators.

There are serious inequities among students who graduate from colleges. In the landscape of higher education, African American men face a unique set of challenges that significantly impact their ability to obtain a college degree. These disparities are not just a matter of personal hardship but are indicative of systemic issues that need addressing to ensure equitable access to education for all. As we delve into these disparities, it becomes clear that targeted interventions and policy changes are essential to bridge this gap and foster a more inclusive educational environment.

Dr. Hamilton RaymondDr. Hamilton RaymondThe findings reveal the historical and societal context of the pursuit of higher education in America. The roots of educational disparities for African American men are deeply embedded in historical and societal contexts. The legacy of slavery, segregation, and persistent racial discrimination has created barriers that extend into the educational system. African American communities have historically been underserved and underfunded, leading to significant gaps in educational resources and opportunities.

Education or lack thereof can influence the socioeconomic outcome of many people. The struggle with the Black community is that young African American males are starting off with a short straw, as many of them come from low-income families, which limits their access to quality K-12 education, extracurricular activities and college preparatory resources. The high cost of college tuition and associated expenses can be prohibitive, leading to lower enrollment and STOP-out! Not dropout rates. Financial aid and scholarships are available, but often not sufficient to bridge the gap, and the burden of student loans can be a daunting deterrent. The double edge sword in this conversation is that because African American males to gain college admissions, this makes them less likely to get good jobs as a direct result of a lack good and quality education.

Cultural dynamics and societal expectations also play significant roles. Stereotypes and biases can impact the self-esteem and motivation of African American men, making them feel less capable or deserving of academic success. The absence of African American male role models and mentors in the spaces of higher education and professional settings who can provide guidance and inspiration further exacerbates this issue.

Upon overcoming all the barriers faced by African American men, and reach postsecondary education, they often encounter a new set of barriers called “institutional barriers,” which can often impede their progress. Predominantly white institutions (PWIs) may lack the cultural competency and support services needed to address the unique challenges faced by African American students. This can result in feelings of isolation, discrimination, and alienation, which negatively impact academic performance and retention rates. Historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) offer more supportive environments, but they too face funding challenges that can limit their capacity to fully support this student cohort.

How do we address this issue of disparity? This is a question that has a multifaceted approach and is ongoing as far as finding the correct response. My thoughts on how we can approach this is by looking at policy reforms, community engagement, institutional changes, roles models and mentors, and research and data collection.

Implementing policies that increase funding for schools in underserved communities, expanding access to financial aid, and supporting initiatives that promote college readiness can surely make a significant difference. Strengthening community-based programs that proved mentoring, tutoring, and college preparatory resources can help African American men succeed academically. Although the government is looking to move in a different direction, colleges and universities must prioritize diversity and inclusion. Creating support networks and implementing culturally responsive programs that address the needs of not only African American students, but more specifically the most fragile cohort, African American males.

This may be a difficult task to pursue. However, in developing media and recruitment campaigns, colleges and universities can partner with marketing companies, and social media influencers, to increase the visibility of successful African American men in academia and professional fields can inspire and motivate younger generations.

As enrollment management officers continue to strategies around best ways to increase the enrollment rate of African American male students at colleges and universities, we must be sure to collect data along the way. Ongoing research to monitor progress and identify effectiveness is crucial for making informed decisions and adjustments to policies and programs.

The disparities faced by African American men in obtaining a college education reflect broader systemic issues that require comprehensive solutions. By addressing socioeconomic barriers, enhancing educational support, and fostering inclusive environments, we can work toward closing the gap and ensuring that all individuals have the opportunity to achieve their academic and professional aspirations. This is not just a matter of equity but a necessity for the advancement and enrichment of our society as a whole. 

Dr. Hamilton Raymond is executive director of admissions at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania.

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