Reversing the Plight of African American Male College Students

Article excerpt

Scholars, both African American and Caucasian, have addressed the plight of the African American college student attending a predominantly White college or university. Of special concern is the African American male. Although African American men and women bear similar sociological and psychological scars of racism and bigotry, most researchers and community leaders agree that the retention of African American men is unquestionably and disproportionately beneath African American women.

Alarming statistics tell us that Black males are more likely to be killed in a violent act, more likely to drop out of high school and more likely to be incarcerated than to enroll in college. Researchers also point out that a high incarceration rate is a factor in dwindling enrollment among this population. In fact, more African American men are currently in U.S. prisons than in U.S. colleges.

The African American male has even been described as an "endangered species," and the successful African American male is now being viewed as something of an anomaly. Today, African American male students have more access to colleges of their choice, but there is a high probability that they will not complete their basic course work, let alone attempt more advanced programs.

It comes as no surprise that African American men are in a precarious position when it comes to persistence in higher education. The declining numbers nationally of African American males attending and graduating from college are distressing not only because of the immediate implications for the men themselves, but also because of long-term economic, social and political consequences for society.

Retention scholars have known for a long time that a student's fit--or "niche" -- in the college environment has a direct impact on his staying power until graduation. For African American men, however, this hunt for a niche often is affected adversely by the challenges they face while transitioning to a predominantly White college or university. …