University System of Georgia Offers a Model for Raising Black Male Enrollment

March 05, 2013

A decade after the University System of Georgia created the African-American Male Initiative, a statewide program to identify and surmount the barriers black men encounter on their path to college, the results are beginning to take shape.

From 2002 to 2011, enrollment of African-American male students systemwide increased by nearly 14,000, or 80 percent; the percentage of degrees conferred grew by nearly 60 percent; and the six-year graduation rate for the black male students who entered in 2005 was 40 percent—an 11 percentage-point uptick since the program's inception. Based at Kennesaw State University, the program has now spread to nearly all of the university system's 31 campuses.

The Georgia effort, highlighted here at the American Council on Education's annual meeting, was one of a handful of programs discussed in a session meant to offer ideas for colleges looking to recruit and retain more minority male students.

Among the other programs featured were the Academy for College Excellence, a program for "struggling but strong" community-college students that began at Cabrillo College, in California, and has since expanded to include seven institutions across the country; and North Carolina A&T University's Middle College, a single-sex public high school for male students located on the university's Greensboro campus.

Arlethia Perry-Johnson, director of the Georgia initiative and vice president for external affairs at Kennesaw State, said her program's goals had evolved over the years from an attempt to identify specific problems into a systemwide drive to significantly increase the enrollment, retention, and graduation of black male students. She described to a standing-room-only session how the program's efforts had unfolded.

Statewide research, both qualitative and quantitative, assessed views on higher education held by high-school guidance counselors, the university system's students, parents, and even inmates in one Georgia prison, she said. A task force zeroed in on key areas like understanding the pipeline from middle and high school to college, and on cultivating partnerships with philanthropic organizations in Georgia. Partnerships on many campuses, most notably with the Student African-American Brotherhood, helped to sharpen the focus on retention. Strategic marketing, meanwhile, conveyed the initiative's goals to black male students, parents, and educators across the state.

The campus-based programs associated with the initiative have taken different approaches: At the College of Coastal Georgia, for instance, incoming black male freshmen can take part in a "Summer Bridge & Go" program, which includes eight weeks of advanced instruction in reading, writing, and mathematics, and a chance to connect with campus mentors.

Columbus State University, meanwhile, offers Projecting Hope, which aims to help black male students from rural areas. Georgia Highlands College has a first-year experience program for black males by way of the Georgia Highlands African-American and Minority Male Excellence organization. Many universities offer more than one program designed for black male students.

"Early intervention is absolutely critical," Ms. Perry-Johnson said. Colleges "have to have an integrated, comprehensive approach where all parties are working together."