Colleges and universities are launching a variety of initiatives to address declining enrollment and retention among Black men, especially during the pandemic, which has disproportionately impacted communities of color.
According to a report from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, as of spring 2021, year-over-year undergraduate enrollment among men fell by 8.9 percent—and by 14.3 percent among Black men, specifically—compared with a 4 percent decrease among women.
Community colleges faced the sharpest enrollment declines. Inside Higher Ed reports that the number of Black males enrolled in public two-year institutions decreased by 21.5 percent compared with a year prior.
“Obviously, when we look at the data, we know that we are losing our Black males at an alarming rate,” Boyd Copeland, vice president of multicultural student services at St. Louis Community College Forest Park, told Inside Higher Ed.
Hoping to reverse that trend, St. Louis Community College launched a six-week summer program called the Black Male Achievers Program, which helps Black male students navigate the transition to campus life.
In addition to connecting students with faculty and staff, and offering for-credit summer courses, the program covers tuition up to $3,000 across two years. There are also plans to hire a student retention coordinator for the program, who will “focus on wraparound supports for Black men.”
Several institutions are adding new positions charged with better supporting Black men in higher education. Arrupe College of Loyola University in Chicago, a Jesuit community college, has plans to use part of a grant to add a retention specialist to a five-year-old mentorship program for Black male students—the Black Men for Success initiative.
Arrupe officials note that, this fall, just 7 percent of the college’s first-year students are Black men, even though about one-third of the local population is African American.
Compton College in Los Angeles, is deploying a portion of its COVID-19 relief funding to hire a “director of Black and males of color success,” following a 28 percent year-over-year drop in the number of Black men enrolled at the college. The new hire will ensure faculty are better prepared to support men of color and will connect students with key resources.
Asserting that “budgets are statements of values,” Compton’s President and CEO Keith Curry says this new investment makes clear the institution’s commitment to success for Black men.
Several academic leaders have emphasized that decreasing enrollment and low retention rates among Black men are not new trends. Addressing the problem broadly and systemically, rather than implementing programs that help only factions of individuals, will be crucial, they say.