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Forum Spotlights Efforts to Boost College Access for Young Black Men

By guest blogger Amanda Ulrich

Washington

Young black men face a unique set of challenges when it comes to postsecondary education. The underrepresentation of black men in higher education, according to the Educational Testing Service, a nonprofit research-and-testing organization, could be due to a conglomeration of factors. A 2013 supplement to the Current Population Survey, conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, indicates that 28 percent of black men ages 18-24 are in poverty.  And only a little over half of black men who graduated in 2012 were enrolled in postsecondary education the following October, according to federal survey data.

ETS's "Advancing Success for Black Men in College" symposium held here this week at the National Press Club shined a spotlight on the hurdles young black men face on the path to higher education. Panels of guest speakers, including current college students and academic professionals, eagerly shared their educational experiences and offered possible solutions to the challenges young black men face when considering college education. 

Here is a quick recap of some of the innovative programs and initiatives that were mentioned over the course of the day:

  • The "Breakfast Club" at Norfolk University, involving faculty, staff and students, is a type of mentoring group that enhances the social, academic and professional development skills of its participants. One component of the club features a peer mentoring system; an older student will step up to the plate and mentor an incoming freshman, establishing a type of home away from home so as to support the new student academically and otherwise. 
  • The Morehouse College Minority Biomedical Research Support: Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement (MBRS RISE) Program works to increase the number of students successfully matriculating in the sciences by not only providing research training experiences, but also supplying an element of community service and peer support. This group gives students the ability to empower one another, while encouraging them to complete graduate study in biomedical research programs. 
  • The Kindergarten to College Program in San Francisco ensures that every kindergartner is automatically given a college savings account (CSA), initially containing a $50 deposit from the city and county of San Francisco. This initiative allows families to start planning for college early on, and offers incentives for parents and other family members to save more for their children.
  • The Posse Foundation, generating a lot of positive buzz as of late due to remarks from President Obama in this year's State of the Union Address, is a part-scholarship/part-mentoring program aimed at assisting students from diverse, urban communities. The foundation places high school seniors with strong leadership skills and academic potential from several different cities into social groups -- or 'posses,' if you will -- to create a community and help ease the transition from high school to college.  

Disclaimer (albeit, fairly obvious): This small sample of programs does not even come close to the amount of resources for students that currently exist, or to those that still need to be created or expanded to reach more young people. That being said, events like ETS's symposium seem to be a step in the right direction when it comes to cultivating awareness of young black men's unique educational challenges and inspiring those in the education field to do more to assist them.

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