The aims and wishes of most college students and academic sponsors are the establishment of a better and more reliable future. Over the years, education systems have clearly defined the path to achievement as a schooling pattern that eventually leads to at least a four-year college attendance.
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How accurate is the symmetry of this pattern? Historically, there have been massive efforts by religious groups, civil rights movements, politicians and parents to push for equality among whites and African Americans in the education sector. Academics have undertaken enormous research studies concerning African Americans’ heritage and cultural existence.
The study has a global significance, due to possible social and cultural influences the community may have beyond the U.S.A. This paper forms an analysis of the low number of African Americans attending colleges and proposes possible solutions over the declining numbers.
The study will take a clear analytical technique of existing research studies, findings, and experiences. The analysis will also be a partial contributor to cultural studies of African Americans.
In line with an anonymous author of an indigenous journal of Blacks in Higher Education, colleges opened specifically for African American communities as early as 1800’s evolved to today’s ‘Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs)’. Affirmative action further pushed for the implementation of policies to level grounds and allow African Americans greater access to the then ‘American colleges and universities’(3).
Despite the tremendous reforms in the education sector, with some attained as early as 1960s, there is still very low college and university attendance by African Americans. Today, the majority of these youth are yet to realize the total benefits of easy access to higher education. The real causes of low turnouts are still hazy.
According to Gerald and Hussar, the 2005 statistics by the Bureau of Labour, indicated that bachelor’s degree holders earn half-better than high-school graduates. The statistics also showed that median earnings between blacks and white at the same working level were equal.
There has been an increase in African Americans’ enrolment into the higher learning institutions. A greater concern lies on the fact that less than half of African Americans graduate, compared to over 60 percent white students who graduate from the same institutions. There is also a higher dropout of male than female African Americans (16).
Is it a failure on the education system in preparing African American students adequately for college and consequently the job market?
Hypothetically, this research analysis is on how different education aspects contribute to lower turnouts at higher education level, and higher dropouts of African Americans at the same level. Such aspects include the social economics status of African Americans, their family background influences, preparations for high education and college/university education environments.
In line with Wilson,’ the legislated Higher Education Act defined and accredited ‘Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) as institutions of higher learning in 1965. The established HBCUs played an important role in educating the rather economically unstable African Americans youths, due to the lowered tuition rates and friendlier enrolment policies. To most African Americans, such education would have been way beyond reach.
The environments were also more suitable considering the shared cultural and social identities. In accordance with Gerald and Hussar, current statistics indicate that the graduation rate of African Americans students in HBCUs is much lower in comparison to their counterparts at national’s best ranked higher learning institutions (5).
Would it be right to attribute size of the institutions, availability of resources and a higher percentage of disadvantaged students at HBCUs to the low graduation rate compared to mainstream institutions? Various arguments have emerged concerning turnout and successful completion of university education by African Americans.
Researchers often cite lack of racism as a factor promoting enrolment and persistence to completion of higher education especially at the HBCUs. Although individual characteristics are most influential towards enrolment, other dynamic factors include financial status, family background, previous academic performance, social and market conditions (Gerald and Hussar 5).
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According to Gerald and Hussar, family status is a huge contributing factor; for instance, single-parent families, broken homes or the possibility that parents never attended college (6).
There is intense research concerning the quality of education in various learning institutions and truly, there is less comparison between HBCUs and other internationally recognized institutions. If quality were same, there would be a greater advantage to enroll at HBCU due to subsidized costs. Quality of education may constitute the low enrolment rate among African Americans students, but successful attainment begins way before enrolment.
The ability to enroll and complete a degree course is solidly proportionate to the student’s performance at lower levels. Enrolment intricately relates to one’s prior skills to meet college demands.
Primary academic preparation and performance are thus the main factors to analyze in the attempt to find a solution for the low number of African Americans who enroll and attend college. If there is inadequate preparation for enrolment, then there is low enrolment and high dropout rate.
There is also a major revamp of the education system for the African Americans due to the reportedly high rates of dropouts both at primary and secondary levels.
If there were secondary failures, then low enrolment at tertiary level is inevitable. In agreement with Green, successful attainment of degree (post-baccalaureate outcome) helps secure personal satisfaction, pride, confidence, and aspirations. It is the icing of what a student had already baked at primary and secondary levels (31).
There is a need to restructure and re-integrate high school curriculum along socioeconomic lines. High school African Americans students also need pre-college preparations and introduction to empowerment sessions such as classes to enlighten on the need for advanced placements. There is also a need to prepare students on ways to complete challenging tasks at the high school level.
Such preparations begin at elementary and middle school levels. Remedial classes at such levels assist slow students to achieve better and find the motivation to join college. The overall environmental structure surrounding a student especially the family setting and supportive structures must introduce the behavior of learning persistently, which ought to occur early enough before high-school graduation stage.
Persistent learning behavior also emerges from the family background setting. Students from broken homes, which are more prevalent among African Americans, have a low chance of enrolling or attending college.
Broken homes may include single-parent families caused by divorces, separations, imprisonment, conflicts or death. In line with Green, over fifty percent of African Americans live in such families (31). Apparently, the family structure has great influence over the well-being of a person way beyond childhood.
Since there are high rates of dropouts at third and fourth years of study at universities or colleges, there is a need for intervention by teachers, parents and college administrators. These persons are in a better state to understand and prevent such cases by offering appropriate measures or interventions.
Money may not be a major cause of the low rate of African Americans enrolment, persistence and completion of courses at university or colleges, but it might highly affect initial admission. The government places various aid programs for needy students and grants are available for good performers. However, some students may lack means to join and complete colleges due to requirements that are beyond school level needs.
Conclusion and recommendation
There is a need for better quantitative research and empirical analysis to determine the rate of enrolment by African American students to colleges and universities. The available statistics mainly focus on small sample sizes. There is a need for the government to address the continued dilapidation of the monitoring system to eliminate absurd failing at primary and secondary schools within the African Americans’ social setting.
The education system works through superficial measures that hide the reality of segregation. The achievement gap among public schools is synonymous to the diverse differences especially on the quality of teaching and guidance. There is a need for proper legislation of all public institutions to enhance better education among African Americans.
In particular, the need to address racism, drugs, gang-enrolments, violence, segregation of institutions, incarceration, and use of assessment form of teaching. The primary level of education has the role of preparing students for further critical engagements. Ensuring there are highly experienced teachers in schools will encourage African American students from despairing to anticipate further education and join college.
There is also a need to expand the current definition of education from just Mathematics and English skills to include creative skills such as arts, sciences, social studies, and other technical subjects.
The only way to re-engage African American students back to the education system and prevent the current prevalent low college-level enrolment is by the implementation of right policies, especially at lower levels. This is through proper student-educator relations, educator qualification, and use of approachable pedagogy, accurate curricula, relevant culture as well as structures.
Anonymous. “Black Student College Graduation Rates Inch Higher but a Large Racial Gap Persists.” Journal of Blacks in Higher Education No. 54. (2007). 1-31. Print.
Gerald, Debra and W. Hussar. Projections of education statistics to 2012: National Center for Education statistics (NCES), PDF File, Thirty-first Edition. October 2012. U.S. department of Education. Web. 16 April 2013.
Green, Charles. Manufacturing powerlessness in the black Diaspora: inner- City youth and the new global frontier, California, CA: AltaMira press Publishers. 2001. Print.
Wilson, Valerie. “The Effect of Attending an HBCU on Persistence and Graduation Outcomes for African-American College Students.” The Review of Black Political Economy 33(4): (2006). 11-52. Print.