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Sunday, August 13, 2006

More Black Males Entering and Graduating College

A new report from the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education (JBHE) states that in 2004, the latest year for which complete data is available, there were 758,400 Black males enrolled in higher education compared to 603,032 in 2000. This is the highest level of enrollments for African American males in history. Black males made 4.4 percent of all enrollments in higher education. The JBHE report notes that about 28 percent of foreign-born Black men in the U.S. have a four-year college degree. This is very close to the educational attainment figures for native-born white men in America.

Dr. Walter E. Massey, president of Morehouse College says, "At Morehouse developing young men is our only business. We build an expectation of success from our students. We give students a sense of themselves, not only as men, but also as human beings. We provide and encourage mentoring practices. We provide non-threatening options and ways for men to ask for and receive help. The Morehouse and HBCU advantage is we set high standards, so that there is a sense of confidence upon graduation."

Thirty-eight percent of the Black male students receiving bachelor's degrees in science and engineering in 2004 received their degrees from an HBCU. Half of the 26 institutions that awarded the largest number of liberal arts bachelor's degrees to Black men were HBCU's according to the Status Report on Minorities in Higher Education 2004-2005, issued by the Washington D.C. - based American Council on Education (ACE).

Redlands accountant and 2005 Howard University graduate, Allen Redmond knows the value of attending an HBCU. "The odds are in your favor." Redmond was raised in predominately white Claremont in the shadow of the Claremont Colleges, a cluster of some of America's most prestigious schools. "I always thought I was to attend one of those schools. They were close to home. I knew a lot of their alumni. But when it came time for me to select a college my father took me to visit three highly recommended schools, all were HBCUs. I was shocked. The faculty, student and campus atmosphere was amazing. It felt like home. It felt like the faculty and staff wanted me there."

Redmond says he missed home and worried about his family. "They sacrificed to pay my college expenses. I was very lonely at first. I struggled academically early on. I almost flunked out." Redmond says male counselors and tutors mentored and encouraged him one on one. "I had no excuse for failure. The classes were small. It felt good to see a Black male standing in front of the class for a change. By the time I graduated I had developed a sense about who I was as a man - not just a Black man. The friends I made, the relationships I formed with my professors and other Black males left a lasting impression on me. Looking back I not only earned a higher education but also gained a sense of identity and heritage," he said.
"Expect to see enrollment and overall growth of HBCUs increase says William R. Moss III, co-founder of Graduates of these institutions (particularly Black males) now have the Internet to help spread the word about there experience at HBCUs. "We have designed a website that started as a way for fellow alumni to keep in touch but that has turned into a HBCU support system," said Moss.

Black men have experienced a starling reversal of fortunes in the span of one generation. In 1980 African-American men ages 18-24 enrolled in higher education outnumbered those incarcerated by a quarter million. According to the U.S. Justice Department, in 2000, Black men ages 18-55 behind bars exceeded those on campus by 188,000 - reflecting the nation's growing and aging prison population.

Experts are cautiously optimistic about the upturn in Black male enrollment. Dr. Geoffery Ajirotutu, educator and author of "Sabotaging America's Black Boys" is among them. "I don't think we should become overly excited right now. If you have a knife six inches in your back and you pull it out three inches you still have a knife in your back - is there progress?"
"This is definitely encouraging news and something to build on, but we're not close to where we need to be." Ajirotutu believes there is much work to do before we see a sustained upturn in Black males graduating from college and competing on a global level. "Our boys are not dropping out in the 12th grade - they're dropping out in the ninth grade. Our society teaches boys can either become an athlete, a rapper, a player or a pimp."

Accountant Redmond agrees "Black males need to see the accountants, the lawyers, the physicians, the bus drivers and computer technicians - if not - we will all pay the price," he says citing James Baldwin's 1970's call for radical change: "These are our children and we will benefit by or pay for what they become."

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