African American Culture and Heritage in Higher Education Research and Practice

By Kassie Freeman | Go to book overview

13
African Americans and College Choice: Cultural Considerations and Policy Implications

Kassie Freeman

Does it strike anyone else as odd that for at least the last 10 to 15 years multitudes of research have documented influences on African Americans and other ethnic groups' participation in higher education; yet the increase in African Americans choosing to participate in higher education continues to fluctuate between stagnation and decline with only a slight increase in 1995 ( Carter & Wilson, 1993, 1994, 1995)? In other words, while there is a slight increase in African Americans participating in higher education, for all the research that has been conducted on this topic the participation rate is nowhere near what it should be.

There is widespread agreement among researchers that when socioeconomic factors are held constant, African Americans tend to have higher postsecondary aspirations than other groups ( Hearn, 1991; Orfield et al., 1984; St. John, 1991); and African American families perceive that a college degree is "very important" ( Orfield, 1992). Given these realities, researchers and policymakers must begin to ask several questions: Why do not more African Americans choose to participate in higher education? What are the missing links between their aspirations to participate and their actual participation in higher education? How can policies be implemented to better address how African Americans can turn their aspirations into reality and to integrate more targeted, workable programs/models?

Closing this gap between aspirations and actual participation is particularly important since educators and economists are in agreement on the importance of increasing African American participation in higher education. Reports such as the Hudson Institute Workforce 2000 have indicated that by the twenty-first century, one out of every three jobs will require schooling beyond the secondary level. In his book Faded Carnoy Dreams ( 1995) discusses, among other issues, the importance of African Americans increasing their educational opportunities. More specifically, Simms ( 1995) discusses the direct relationship between African American participation in higher education and African American participation in the economy.

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