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About the Initiative

Education and the American future

By 2008, the College Board and its members recognized that a number of issues clouded the educational landscape, posing formidable challenges to students enrolling and succeeding in college. In response to these challenges, the College Board established the Commission on Access, Admissions and Success in Higher Education to study the educational pipeline from preschool to college as a single continuum and to identify solutions to increase the number of students who are prepared to succeed and graduate from college in the 21st century. The commission’s 2008 report, Coming to Our Senses: Education and the American Future, painted a disheartening portrait of recent trends in education by U.S. students: Our international college and high school completion ranking had dropped dramatically; the proportion of adults with postsecondary credentials was not keeping pace with growth in other industrialized nations; and significant disparities in educational achievement existed for low-income and minority students. As such, the commission faced two key questions: What must be changed to improve the nation’s education system? How will we know if these implemented changes are successful? In its report, the commission made 10 interdependent recommendations on steps necessary to reach its goal of ensuring that at least 55 percent of American young adults earn a postsecondary degree or credential by 2025. This completion goal is not just about once again making the U.S. a leader in educational attainment. In fact, this agenda is about jobs and the future economy of the United States. We must have an educated workforce that can support the knowledge-based jobs of the future and improve the global competitiveness of the United States.

With the goal of increasing college completion, the College Board published the College Completion Agenda in July 2010, joining the Obama administration, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Lumina Foundation and other organizations in a commitment to ensure the economic success of America by once again making the U.S. the world leader in higher education attainment. The annual publication continues to provide reliable, measurable information that tracks our collective progress toward increased postsecondary attainment, and highlights policymaking strategies each state can use to help reach our destination.

A focus on young men of color

Early in 2010, the College Board issued the report The Educational Crisis Facing Young Men of Color. This was the culmination of two years of qualitative research into the comparative and, indeed, in some cases, the absolute lack of success that males of color are experiencing as they traverse the education pipeline. This research focused on conversations, which we called Dialogue Days, that engaged members of four groups — African Americans, Hispanics/Latinos, Native Americans and Asian Americans — in a series of discourses designed to get at the issues confronting these young men. The findings were a powerful reminder of the disparate educational outcomes of different groups in the United States.

Within a generation, the United States will be a much more diverse nation. In fact, in less than half a century, no racial or ethnic group will be a majority. We also knew that the fastest-growing populations in the country were those minority groups with the lowest levels of educational attainment. We were assured by the data that if present levels of education and current population trends hold, the U.S. will see a decline in the educational attainment of the country as a whole.

In order to regain the nation's once-preeminent international position in the percentage of young adults with postsecondary credentials, we must begin to matriculate and graduate populations of American students who traditionally have been underrepresented at the postsecondary level. The educational achievement of young men of color demands significant dialogue; currently, just 26 percent of African Americans, 24 percent of Native Americans and Pacific Islanders, and 18 percent of Hispanic Americans have at least an associate degree. In addition, in each racial and ethnic group young women are outperforming young men with respect to the attainment of high school diplomas, with even more pronounced disparities at the postsecondary level. The Educational Experience of Young Men of Color initiative seeks  to identify existing — and needed — research around this issue, understand the “why” and provide an overview of the legal landscape within which solutions must be developed.

We have conducted an extensive data and literature review to find out what is known to date on the situation facing young men of color. The College Board, in partnership with the Business Innovation Factory, have engaged these young men directly to understand how they view their experiences and to add their voice to the discussion of how to better meet their needs.

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