NOT BUSINESS AS USUAL: Reconsideration of the Career Needs, Concerns, and the Career Interventions with African-American College Students

Article excerpt

"A variety of negative social and environmental factors, such as lack of social support and discomfort with the university social climate, contribute to lower graduation rates for African-Americans.. . The expressed need for career services combined with the typical under use of these services by African-Americans at predominately White Universities warrants further study." -Falconer and Hays, 2006, pp.220.

The timely quote above speaks directly to career counselors, career educators, and student affairs professionals in terms of the exigency of appropriate attendance to the career needs, concerns, and the career interventions of and for African- American college students. At this current time there seems to exist a conundrum in relationship to Black students and their participation in higher education. Recent indicators provide evidence that the engagement of African- Americans in post-secondary education is on the rise. Aud and Fox (2010) of the U. S Department of Education, National Center for Educational Statistics, reported that the transition from high school to college for African-American in 2007, compared to 1980, showed an increase of 54 per cent vs. 44 per cent respectively. Additionally, "approximately 32 per cent of Black 18 - to 24 year-olds were enrolled in college or universities (an increase of 12 per cent points from 1980) " (Aud & Fox, 2010, p. vi). The statistics for the enrollment of African-American women in post-secondary education are yet more impressive, accounting for 64 per cent of Black undergraduate enrollment in 2008 (Aud & Fox 2010). These numbers are encouraging yet they represent one portion of the conundrum as related to African-American college students. While the number of Blacks in college has increased, concurrently the attrition rates have grown and the graduation numbers have declined, ergo the present conundrum. For example researchers Guiffrida & Douthit (2010) and, Walker, Pearson, & Murrell (2010) all point to the fact once Black students arrive on college campuses, they appear in troubling numbers, to drop out and not graduate. "The continued disparity between the educational attainments of Blacks and Whites is reflected in the significantly higher attritions rates experienced by Black college students... statistics indicate that only 40 per cent of Black students. . .will ultimately graduate compared with more than 61 per cent of White students" (Guiffrida & Douthit 2010, p. 311). Walker et al. (2010), in lamenting the lack of retention of ethnic minority college students indicate that, "only three out of 10 students of color achieve their educational goal of earning an associate's or bachelor's degree" (p. 739).

The most obvious and pressing question then might be framed in terms of, what is occurring with these African-American college students? They are attending college in historically higher numbers while at the same time their retention numbers and degree earning numbers are decreasing. It is the task of this article to address just this disconnect, in reconsidering how the career needs/concerns of African-American college students are being met, or indeed, not being attended. It is also the intent of this article to explore some possible career interventions that might enhance both retention and graduation rates for African- American college students.

Concerns That May Impact the Career Behaviors of African American College Students

Family Impact on Career

Any discussion related to African American college students and their careers must of necessity speak to the sui generis historical, socio-political, and cultural location of African Americans and specifically the African American family. According to Wright and Fernander (2005) it is important for researchers to recognize that the structure of the African American family is viable and functioning of it own accord and should not be conceptualized according to the European American family structure. …