Barriers for Minority Males in Higher Education

Barriers for minority males in higher education By Michael Shepherd, Published December 8, 2009 The U. S. educational system must raise educational attainment among low-income Latinos and African-American males, and community colleges are a logical partner to reach that goal. Public two-year colleges are often the point of entry into higher education for these two groups of men, and they serve a high percentage of first-generation college students and students of color.

Latino and African-American males often encounter different problems at the collegiate level that correlate with their dropout and graduation rates. Problems such as not enough professors of the same race, few students of the same race, discrimination, rude and unfair treatment because of race, campus climate, commitment to educational goals, social and academic integration and financial aid. Institutions of higher education have been known in the past to have an environment that has been culturally irrelevant to such students.

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As an African-American male who just completed his master’s degree, I often looked around the classroom and found there was no one like me. There are likely many reasons these men vanish from the classroom or decide not to even attend college. One reason in particular is residential segregation of neighborhoods and schools before they even consider college. I lived in the inner city and I know youths in these areas are not afforded the same educational opportunities as people who live in more affluent neighborhoods.

Students in predominantly black and Latino schools are less likely to graduate high school, earn a high school diploma or even a bachelor’s degree, according to research. Another problem is the K-12 system. Most African-American and Latino parents live in the inner city, where their children attend schools that often lack the academic rigor and discipline needed to succeed in college. This in itself may lead to the inability to maintain the grades or academic status to stay in school.

Urban areas where African-American men live have the lowest three-year graduation rate among all minority males in community college at 16 percent. Other factors contributing to the lack of minority males in higher education is closer to home—single-parent families where the father is absent from his child’s life. It’s often cyclic. A young man may lack the role model needed to inspire him to attend college. Conversely, young father may have to drop out of college to find a job to help take care of his children. Latino males face similar issues.

Social, cultural and financial barriers play a huge part in the low number of Latino males who are in the pursuit of obtaining a degree. Often, Latino males think they have to be the bread winner for their home. This leads to dropping out of school to help support their family. According to the Outlook of Higher Education, retaining Latino students may have something to do with the perception of the climate at universities. Another factor is the lack of diversity among professors. African-American or Latino students want to talk to a professor of color who might have a common interest that they might be able to share.

As a facilitator of a focus group I get firsthand answers from these young men regarding how to address these issues so that they can achieve their goals. Some of the suggestions include the need for more minority teachers, instructors should emphasize to students their commitment to help them, developing a support system for those who do not have one at home and treating students in a professional manner. The time is right to address these issues and to commit to enhancing the success rate of these community college students. Instead of No Child Left Behind, let’s implement No Race Left Behind.

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