This question asked may still be considered blasphemous by most Black people today as we think graduating from college represents our best chance for better employment. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, Blacks represented 13 % of all enrolled students seeking a Bachelor’s degree but in 2005 only 39 % of that 13 % where males who graduated in 6 years. This is compared to 58 % of United States students who finished in 6 years. In 2000, 57 % of all Black 12th grade students expected to graduate with a bachelor’s degree so why aren’t more Black males graduating with their degrees?
In the face of these sad statistics, our solution as public educators has been to ensure higher expectations, often adopting a “no-excuses” approach to college preparation. While I agree that we need to ensure that our students are achieving this approach is lost in translation, while we debate over what our students need to achieve. Besides, there are several Black male students who fought onward toward their bachelor’s degree despite inadequate secondary school preparation. Our society needs us to be more innovative, to develop fresher perspectives to approach this problem. In a recent blog post with Huffington Post, Dr. McGuire, the President of Trinity Washington University cites the recent NCES report that the rate of college enrollment among Black students will increase by 25 % by the year 2021 and college and universities must shift their paradigms to meet the needs of this shifting college demographic. Perhaps, we in the pre-college educational world need to shift our paradigm and ask ourselves, why are we pushing all of our young Black men toward college graduation.
Finland’s public education system and their results were the rage among public educator for the past 5 years. In a study among Finland’s high achieving students, Dr. Nurmi found these Finnish children spent more time planning their futures instead of thinking about them. We are pushing our Black male students toward college graduation with woefully inadequate concrete plans for this bachelor’s degree. With as much enthusiasm, emotion, and effort we spend urging, pleading cajoling, and arguing with our Black males so they become college students, we need to develop concrete future plans for these degrees.
A concrete future plan sidesteps the higher education response by saying that the degree earned statistic that we use does not account for students who transfer from one institution to another but this simply illustrates the need for a concrete plan. How many family resources are squandered when children decide to transfer from one institution to another or simply decide not to continue. Earning a bachelor’s degree is not the end of a journey; it was never designed to be that. Before we send our Black sons, grandsons, nephews, neighbors, and students to college, we must ask them the simple question, “why do you want this degree?” If they cannot answer that question with responses other than “to get a good job” or “ this is what is expected of me”, then they are not prepared to finish college with a degree. A good job for several of these young men do not require a bachelor’s degree but probability of their success is increased by membership in social networks that only college enrollment brings. Our Black young men need a concrete plan that can be written and read when the college days are filled with rigor and the right choice to party or study needs to be made. The one group of Black male college students who have a concrete plan but do not graduate are among our most successful Black college enrollees, professional basketball and football players. These professionals attended college because college enrollment is required for future employment with the NBA or NFL. Our young Black men who enroll in college need to have a similar concrete plan for using their degree or a rationale for enrolling in college. College graduation alone is not the answer for too many of our African American male students but a bachelor’s degree with a concrete plan definitely is.