Dissecting A Dilemma: The Black Male Crisis in Higher Education: New Directions or Status Quo?

By White, Keith L. | Black Issues in Higher Education, June 2, 1994 | Go to article overview

Dissecting A Dilemma: The Black Male Crisis in Higher Education: New Directions or Status Quo?


White, Keith L., Black Issues in Higher Education


Dissecting A Dilemma: The Black Male Crisis In Higher Education: New. Directions or Status Quo?

It has been recognized that Black under-representation is most acute in higher education. An even greater aberration is the declining number of Black males in higher education. From 1984 to 1989 the number of Black males enrolled in college went from 1,811,000 to 1,654,000, according to the U.S. Dept. of Commerce. The proportion of students who are Black has fallen from 9.6 percent in 1978 to 8.9 percent in 1988. The drop in population is reflected mainly in the enrollment of Black males.

The lack of financial resources (parental support, student loans, grants) for minority students has traditionally been considered a barrier to minority participation.

For the Black male, financing personal and educational pursuits is a major concern. Financial aid is less available due to sweeping laws which govern federal funding. Many loans and grants have been eliminated; the criteria for others have been changed radically. The Bush administration made efforts to change the Council on Legal Educational Opportunity (CLEO) from noncompetitive to competitive. This program has been the exclusive recipient of monies for disadvantaged youth, specifically Blacks. it has been viewed as the main vehicle for entrance into the legal profession by minorities.

To compound this, monies allocated to minority institutions have been restructured to the disadvantage of Black males.

Background Determinants

In the area of background determinants, institutions must examine socioeconomic status, high school performance, distance from home, age, gender and enrollment status. In 1989 the high school completion rate for Black males was 72.2 percent, and for Black females 79.3 percent. Why? In recent years, society's expectations for Black males has been extremely low, which, in turn, leads to low self-esteem as well as low standards. If little is expected, little is given. As a result, study habits are weak and performance levels are low.

Do teachers subconsciously anticipate behavior problems from Black males? Student self-evaluation is a crucial variable for understanding successful participation in learning. Low self-confidence creates psychological distress and places the Black male at risk for dropping out of school.

Consideration must be given to the number of Black male children in single-parent homes. Often there is an absence of parental supervision and male role models. This forces the Black male to be committed to the student role while simultaneously being committed to other important life roles: guardian to younger siblings or helper to the single parent. Several studies have found an inverse relation between level of commitment to school and work and family roles. Other roles often expand student responsibilities and create a strain on student life. The Black male student has less time and energy to commit to the student role than does his white counterpart.

Black males bring diversity to the college campus. Between 1976 and 1988, the number of Black males enrolling in undergraduate programs fell from 10.2 percent to 9.4 percent. To preclude a further decline in numbers, institutions must examine the individual's personal standards and expectations. They must ask themselves how much they know about the cultural and cognitive assets of Black male students. And there must be an awareness of attitudes among Black males toward college and achievement.

Organizational Determinants

Cultural values which inhibit the performance of the Black male student must be identified. There must be a systematic assessment of the campus climate toward diversity. Institutions must ask a number of critical questions, such as: What does "diversity" mean in an institution of higher learning? …

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