Men of color attending community colleges are less likely to obtain an associate degree than are white males, despite being the most engaged in and out of the classroom, a new report finds. In "Aspirations to Achievement: Men of Color and Community Colleges," the Center for Community College Student Engagement reveals that even though black and Latino students at two-year institutions show more interest than their white peers in obtaining an associate degree or certificate, only 5 percent actually accomplish that goal within three years, compared to 32 percent for white students.
One of the reasons the gap might exist, the authors of the report say, is because of what they call stereotype threat. That’s the “fear of fulfilling a negative stereotype,” and it can be triggered unintentionally. That fear can affect a student’s performance in the classroom. Recommendations to help close the gap, they say, start with institutions first acknowledging the issue, because not enough of them are looking at how systemic disparities can affect a student of color’s educational experience. The report offers tools for leaders at these colleges to conduct focus groups, and questions to help guide campus-based and community-based discussions on issues such as aspiration, achievement and equity.
“Grappling with these disparities is a task for virtually every community college,” said Kay McClenney, the director of Center for Community College Student Engagement, in a press release. “Campus conversations and actions must address at least three factors: substantially different levels of college readiness across racial and ethnic groups, the demonstrated effects of stereotype threat on performance in higher education, and continuing impacts of structural racism evident in systems throughout American society,” she said.