While black and Latino men attending community college have some of the highest educational goals of any racial or gender group, they are also the least likely to achieve them.
That’s one of several findings included in a new report from the Center for Community College Student Engagement, which suggests that black and Latino men graduate from college at disproportionately low rates partly because they arrive less prepared and can suffer from discrimination and stereotyping, or a fear that they will live up to negative stereotypes.
The release of the report comes a day before President Obama is expected to provide details on a new initiative to improve the lives of young men of color. Obama has said the initiative, called “My Brother’s Keeper,” will be led by a mixture of foundations, public officials, churches, and non-profits.
Black and Latino males are more likely to attend community colleges than four-year universities, the new report found. And, on average, they are more ambitious and engaged while there — seeking out academic help, and not skipping class, for instance — than white male students. And 87 percent said they hoped to earn an associate’s degree, compared to 80 percent of white men.
Yet only five percent of Latino and black men earn certificates or degrees within three years, compared to 32 percent of white men.
Black and Latino men report using just about every form of academic support provided by their community colleges — tutoring, computer labs, study skills courses — at higher rates than white men with the same GPAs. That finding suggests that black and Latino males have to work far harder to achieve at the same levels as their white peers at community colleges.
“Race and ethnicity intersect in complicated ways with gender, socioeconomic status, college readiness and other factors,” the report’s authors conclude “There remains the necessary and unequivocal recognition that in this society, race matters.”
Many of the suggestions for improvements fall into the categories of helping black and Latino male students build strong relationships with mentors, improving the diversity and cultural sensitivity of faculty members, or strengthening the remedial courses many struggling students take when they arrive at community colleges.
Among the model programs described in the report:
- Jackson College in Michigan created an intensive mentoring program for minority male students called Men of Merit, which includes biweekly meetings with mentors who can provide academic and career advice. Black men who participated in the program in the fall of 2011 had an 81 percent chance of making it to their second semester, compared to 61 percent of black male students who did not participate.
- Most of North Carolina’s community college take part in what’s known as the Minority Male Mentoring Program, which works with both full- and part-time students to provide academic advising, study skills courses, and chances to take part in community service. That program, started in 2003, has significantly boosted retention rates for minority men.