Over its 94-year history, the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) has promoted the academic and professional success of all community college students, many of whom face challenges, such as being a first-generation American, coming from a low-income community or balancing school and work to support their families.
Last month, The New York Times published an article, On U.S. Campuses, Networking and Nurturing to Retain Black Men, that highlights efforts at some colleges and universities to improve completion rates for African-American male students. The challenges these students face in earning higher-education degrees are steep:
- As early as fourth and eighth grades, fewer than 20 percent of African-American boys are proficient in math and reading.
- Just over 50 percent of black male students graduate from high school.
- Only 17 percent of all black male students who enter community colleges will earn certificates or associate degrees or transfer to four-year institutions within three years.
But for every challenge students face inside the classroom, community colleges are prepared to find a solution.
The New York Times article points to several successful programs aimed at building both the confidence and the academic skills students need to complete college. One highlighted program, The Network for Student Success, is run by AACC member Pulaski Technical College and funded by the U.S. Department of Education. This program helps African-American male students overcome barriers to college graduation by promoting and creating access to supportive relationships. Through a one-on-one mentorship model — or what the program calls “brother-to-brother case management” — students receive help identifying completion goals and behaviors that improve academic success, from sitting at the front of the classroom to introducing themselves to professors.
The Network for Student Success has had its share of success stories: According to The New York Times, participant Cameron Slater entered the program in his first year; by his second year, he had been elected president of the student body. He went on to earn his associate degree and is now working toward his bachelor’s degree at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.
More than 100 AACC member colleges have similar minority male student success programs that are dedicated to supporting these students on their path to degree completion. From peer support groups and networking retreats to the development of soft skills, such as motivation and study habits, all of the programs promote environments of inclusion and support students in their pursuit of higher education.
These programs are key to increasing college completion nationwide. If community colleges dedicate resources to supporting the success of all students — especially those who face particularly challenging circumstances — while also creating environments of inclusion and equity, all students can reach their highest potential.
Is your community college working with minority males to help them succeed? Tell us about your college’s program in the Comments.