Increasing African American Male Graduation Rates

Nov 28, 2019 by

What is no secret is that a college degree makes a difference in family income. Increasingly a college education is now considered a given for any type of social mobility and economic advancement. It has long been recognized that African American male students have lower college graduation rates. There is a great disparity between black students and their white or Asian counterparts when it comes to the completion rates. While Asians and Whites on average have a completion rate of 63%, African American students are at a rate of only 38%.

However, black female students have on average a better completion rate than black males. However, some colleges have excellent records when it comes to young black males’ completion rates. This includes both white-majority schools and HBCUs or Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

This disparity is a source of concern as it could lead to many young black males becoming economically and socially disadvantaged. There are a number of reasons as to why so many young African American males fail to complete their studies.

The racial climate is not favorable towards African Americans’ in some institutions. Many young black men feel alienated and even excluded and this leads to higher drop-out rates.

Disengaged. Many black males believe that they suffer subtle forms of discrimination or micro-aggressions which communicate hostility from other racial groups. They often experience words and actions that make them feel unwelcome or inferior and as a result, they become discouraged.

Where are you? Location. If a college is in a white majority area, many black male students can become alienated and lose interest in their education. It is often the case that the curriculum is one that is designed for white students and does not reflect the interests and needs of young black males. Many face hostile academic environments because white administrators often have stereotypes about the intellectual capacities and abilities of black males.

First Generation. With some students, there is no tradition among young black students of going to college and most come from families whose members have not attended any form of Higher Education. Then they often attend schools that have fewer resources than mainly white schools. This is very apparent in some subjects such as math or science.

The Role of Money. Then perhaps the single most important factor in the high level of young black men dropping out of college is financial difficulties. In general, they come from low-income families and lack the necessary means to complete that degree. They cannot afford textbooks, supplies like a graphing calculator or goggles, etc. or a bus ticket home for Thanksgiving to see family and fee rejuvenated to complete the semester.

Let’s Start Working on a Solution.

What can be done to improve black male completion rates? It is important that retention programs are put in place. These programs can help African American students to adapt to their new circumstances. They can intervene early if a student is facing challenges and can offer academic and other supports. Staff can use toolkits that would allows them to support African American students effectively such as the Next Generation Toolkit

Black Students Association. The active black student groups can help a student to adjust to life on campus, by holding cultural and other events that promote the African-American identity. They provide an African American male to make the connection to who he is and the transition to college life. The organizations foster a sense of belonging and even self-belief, which can help young African-Americans’ to persist in their studies and complete their degrees, no matter how long it takes.

Mentorship programs can also be helpful. These may involve black staff members guiding and directing young African-American males during the course of their academic careers.

School administrators need to be committed to diversity. Hands down, mentoring is a key component so as to help minority students navigate their educational experiences. How does it work? It is simple. One on one weekly face to face check-ins with students from faculty, staff or an adult in the university community. This shows that the college/university community cares. Creating meaningful connections is key to increasing minority student graduation rates. The more black students there are, it is more likely to lead to an environment where African-American students feel they belong.

Studies have shown that African American male students have higher graduation rates when they are attending colleges with the right ‘institutional characteristics’ such as small enrolments.

College administrators can make a difference and they can implement strategies that can increase African American male student retention and graduation rates. However, to really tackle this problem there needs to be a strategy to close the achievement gap. More resources need to be dedicated to schools with a high proportion of African-American students, especially in science and math. Then more effective teaching is needed to better prepare the next generation of African American students. These are no easy solutions they are a starting point for any educational institution.


African-American college completion, black males, graduation rates, retention, inclusivity, diversity


What are the short and long-term changes that need to be made to improve black males’ completion rates in your educational setting? Can you list a set of first steps to take in order to initiate change?


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Palmer, R. T., Davis, R. J., Moore III, J. L., & Hilton, A. A. (2010). A Nation at Risk: Increasing College Participation and Persistence Among African American Males to Stimulate US Global Competitiveness. Journal of African American Males in Education, 1(2). Retrieved from

Solorzano, D., Ceja, M., & Yosso, T. (2000). Critical race theory, racial microaggressions, and campus racial climate: The experiences of African American college students. Journal of Negro Education, 60-73. Retrieved from

Tate, Emily (2017) Graduation Rates and Race. Inside Higher ED. Retrieved from

Vasquez Urias, M., & Wood, J. L. (2014). Black male graduation rates in community colleges: Do institutional characteristics make a difference. Community College Journal of Research and Practice, 38(12), 1112-1124. Retrieved from

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