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Higher Education

Given the range of achievement and persistence outcomes among high school students and the various support mechanisms that either hinder or foster such outcomes, college opportunity and success remain elusive for far too many young adults, particularly young men of color.  Explore key data on college access and participation, persistence and support, and institution types to understand the challenges these students face and how  they might be addressed.

As not all students desire or are able to continue their education immediately after high school, the most useful measure of college participation is the percentage of traditional college-age young adults who are enrolled in post-secondary institutions, while access is measured by the distribution of participation across institution types.

The Figures

Percentage distribution of undergraduate fall enrollment in degree-granting institutions by race/ethnicity

Female percentage of undergraduate fall enrollment in degree-granting institutions by race/ethnicity

Percentage distribution of enrollment in degree-granting institutions by race/ethnicity and institution type: 2008

The Facts

Explore key data

Enrollment in colleges and universities of African American males aged 18 to 24 grew at
less than half
the rate of that of their female counterparts between 1990 and 2008.
Enrollment in colleges and universities of Asian/Pacific males aged 18 to 24 declined
9%
between 1990 and 2008, while enrollment among their female counterparts rose by 11%.
Enrollment in colleges and universities of Latino males aged 18 to 24 grew at about
2/3
the rate of that of their female counterparts between 1990 and 2008.
Enrollment in colleges and universities of Native American males aged 18 to 24 more than
doubled
between 1990 and 2008.

Expert Insight

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Asians (96%) and African Americans (94%) are more likely than whites (92%), Latinos (91%) and Native Americans (85%) to have postsecondary aspirations (Chen, Wu et al. 2010).

The inaccessibility of nonprofit institutions has created a market for students who aspire to a bachelor’s degree, and the for-profit colleges and universities have seized the opportunity to serve them (Lynch and Engle 2010; Lynch, Engle et al. 2010).

According to Solorzano, Villapando, and Oseguera (2005), while more than 70% of Latinos want to transfer from two-year to four-year institutions, only 7%-20% actually do.

Although HBCUs represent only 3% of all institutions in the United States, they produce 28% of all bachelor’s degrees awarded to African Americans—despite the fact that HBCUs enroll only 10.6% of all African Americans matriculating in higher education (Gasman, Baez et al. 2007).

Hispanic-Serving Institutions enroll 13.4% of all students in higher education, but almost half (49.8%) of all Latino students attend HSIs. While HSIs represent about 10% of all degree-granting colleges and universities, these institutions produce almost 40% of all degrees earned by Latino students (Santiago 2006; Santiago 2010).

Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs) are unique institutions in that they combine cultural relevance and personal attention in order to encourage Native Americans to enroll in higher education (1998; Consortium 1999).

Teranishi, Ceja, Antonio, Allen and McDonough (2004) found that the college choice processes of Asian American/Pacific Islander students differed by ethnicity and socioeconomic status, with ethnicity having the stronger impact. Chinese and Korean students were more likely to choose selective, private and 4-year institutions than Filipinos and Southeast Asians.

In 2008, African American men represented 5% of all undergraduates in the US, unchanged from 1976, while African American women’s representation shifted 4 percentage points. (Harper 2006)

Persistence, or degree completion, is perhaps one of the most widely used measures of college student success, and the level and kinds of support available is a key influencer in persistence outcomes.

The Figures

Percentage distribution of bachelor’s degree awarded by race/ethnicity, 2007–08

Percentage distribution of bachelor’s degrees awarded by gender and race/ethnicity, 2007–08

The Facts

Explore key data

African American males accounted for only
34%
of bachelor's degrees awarded to all African Americans in 2007–2008.
Asian/Pacific Islander males accounted for only
45%
of bachelor's degrees awarded to all Asian/Pacific Islanders in 2007–2008.
Hispanic males accounted for only
39%
of bachelor's degrees awarded to all Hispanics in 2007–2008.
American Indian/Alaska Native males accounted for only
39%
of bachelor's degrees awarded to all American Indian/Alaska Natives in 2007–2008.

Expert Insight

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Factors that help keep Native American students in school include support from family or faculty, institutional commitment to diversity, personal commitment, and connection to homeland/culture, while factors that push them out include inadequate academic preparation, vague educational/vocational goals, adjusting to campus environment, racism and non-traditional approach (stop-out, part-time, transfer, etc.). (Gloria and Kurpius 2001; Brayboy and McKinley 2005; Larimore and McClellan 2005; Lundberg 2007).

Academic under-preparedness, low socioeconomic status, different social and cultural capital, family obligations, ethnic identity and campus climate influence Latino attrition (Strayhorn 2008; Saenz and Ponjuan 2009).

Gloria, Castellanos, Scull and Villegas (2009) found that Latino males developed active coping strategies to deal with perceived barriers and cultural challenges on campus, noting that foreign-born students perceived more barriers than did native-born students.

Cress and Ikeda (2003) examined how Asian American students’ perceptions of campus climate affect mental health and depression, finding that Asian American students, and males in particular, report higher levels of depression but were less likely to seek help.

Gloria and Ho (2003) found that social support was the strongest predictor of persistence among 160 Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Korean, Pacific Islander and Vietnamese students.

Studies have found that supportive faculty, campus environments, and peers are important for the success of African American students (Strayhorn 2008; Strayhorn 2008; Strayhorn 2008) (Davis and Jordan 1994; LaVant, Anderson et al. 1997; Glenn 2004; Harper 2004; Cuyjet 2006; Harper 2007; Harper and Gasman 2008; Palmer and Gasman 2008)

Harper (2007) found that forced classroom participation and certain faculty teaching styles can have a negative impact on African American males while Palmer, Davis and Hilton (2008) found that many African American males face challenges that include a lack financial support, failure to seek support services, and difficulty navigating home and school.