Three important factors are needed to get young men to enter and finish college: achievement, persistence and support.

Three important factors are needed to get young men to enter and finish college: achievement, persistence and support.

Educating Young Men of Color

After high school there are six distinct pathways all students take: postsecondary education, unemployment, military, employment, incarceration and death. For Native American men only 8 percent go to college, and the unemployment and employment numbers are too close for comfort—39.2 percent and 48 percent respectively. Remaining figures show 1.9 percent go into the military, 2.7 percent are incarcerated and 0.3 percent have walked on.

The College Board Advocacy & Policy Center recently came out with a study called “The Educational Experience of Young Men of Color” that found the United States is still behind in students completing college.

“Only 26 percent of African Americans, 18 percent of Hispanic Americans and 24 percent of Native Americans and Pacific Islanders have at least an associate degree,” points out Dr. John Lee, a policy director for the College Board. “If current demographic and educational trends continue, the overall education level of the American workforce will decline for the first time in our nation’s history.”

The College Board points to three major hurdles faced by young men of color, including pressures of life, paths to completion and webs of support. Pressures of life include being a parent and working while also attending school; paths to completion include any path the student took to get an education, including dropping out, transferring colleges or managing work and probation terms; webs of support affect the student’s level of success in higher education.

Clyde, 32, a Native American from the Northwest interviewed for the study, said “It was impossible for me to work full-time, plus raise a child, and try to go to school.”

Sammy, a 21-year-old Asian American/Pacific Islander from the Northeast, told a story about when he was in jail. He told his roommate he wanted to go to school after he served his time. His roommate told him not to “act out of character” because “people in jail, they look up to you.” Sammy said instead of sticking to that old closed-minded viewpoint he wanted to go to college and “try to do better.”

Improving these conditions is part of the College Board’s national initiative for the United States to become more competitive in the global economy. The College Board offers six recommendations:

  • Make improving these conditions a national priority.
  • Increase mentoring and support for young men of color.
  • Reform education so students are ready for college or a career.
  • Improve teacher education and professional development.
  • Create culturally appropriate retention programs to assist young men of color in completing college.
  • Conduct more studies to strengthen the understanding of the challenges young men of color face.

Read and listen to the experiences of all 92 students, browse through the statistics, test yourself on hurdles faced by young men, view the programs suggested for each recommendation, and read the full report on the dedicated Young Men of Color website.

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