Seeking Success for the African-American Male in Education

Editors Note: The education of Black men is an ongoing issue in the Black community. The post below is a guest post from writer Sally Cliff on the perceptions of African-American males students in education and some solutions to them as well. -M.P.

Seeking Success for the African-American Male in Education

By Sally Cliff

The issue of African-American education has always been a hot one, and different opinions have been advanced at different times on how to further education in this segment of the society. It is very common to hear of the black male being spoken of as a dying species, especially in the educational sector. However, the issue has been muddled with so many assumptions that is has become very difficult to identify the truth.

Representation of Black Males in College

The representation of black males in school, and particularly in college, is one that has often been distorted by media outlets. According to IPUMS data, black males are not underrepresented because they make up 5.5 percent of college population, just like they make up 5.5 percent of the adult population of males in the country. Note that this is just representation of those in college, and not of graduates.

The assumption that black males are underrepresented in college is widespread due to many reasons, one of which is the abundant negative news reports about this part of American society. Nearly every day there are news of high dropout rates of blacks from high school, incarcerations and such things.

However, this is not to say that male African-Americans are fairing well with education. Strides have been made. According to Infoplease, the number of black Americans in college increased significantly over the years preceding 2008. The problem is that a good percentage of these students do not go on to graduate.

For black men of 25 years and above, the percentage who have attempted college is 45, but only 16% have college degrees. This compares unfavorably to approximately 32% of white males of the same age who have college degrees. At the same time, black males are incarcerated at a higher rate than other races, and even become victims of violent crimes more frequently than other race groups. The situation is bad, and matters are not helped by the fact that reported figures and incidences are often exaggerated.


While it is clear that mainstream media representations and general public assumptions on the education of male African-Americans are regularly off the mark, a lot has to be done to remedy the situation. Many people are cynical about attempts to remedy the situation, but the cynicism is only making matters worse.

Some of the factors that can help in the education of these young men include:

Increase and emphasis on mentorship programs for college students,

Sponsoring young men for college tours,

Counseling black males in high schools,

Use of college-bound curriculum in all high schools,

Increased advocacy for need based scholarships and others.

Different organizations and individuals are already involved with some of these initiatives. For example, President Obama recently launched an African-American education initiative to give black students greater access to lifelong educational opportunities. Robert Morris University is creating RMU Research Center on Black Male Educational Student Success, hoping the center will provide an educational model that African-American males can rely on elsewhere. However, this is just the beginning, and more needs to be done for this segment of the community to enjoy the fruits of education.

Sally Cliff is a recent university science graduate and contributor to a resource site for university students.

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