College Access and Attainment

Strategies and Programs for Men of Color 

As the Great Recession and the COVID-19 pandemic have shown us, a degree is the biggest safeguard in both the current and future job markets. During the height of the Great Recession, those with a high school diploma or less suffered the greatest job losses. That trend continued post-recession with nearly 99% of all new jobs created for workers who had “some college” or completed their degree (Carnevale, Jayasundera, & Gulish, 2016). Fast-forward from that time to 2020. Once again, those workers hit hardest had lower educational levels of attainment (Forbes, College Graduates are Less Likely to Become Unemployed Due to the Coronavirus).

Over the last year, the pandemic has also shone a light on another growing and alarming trend: fewer males entering college in relation to their female counterparts. Nationally, women have been a majority on college campuses since the late 1970s and early 1980s, but that margin has continued to grow, and women now represent 56% of students in college. Despite growth in the total proportion of males and females entering college, women outpace men in almost every racial and ethnic category. For example, in 2018, 45% of White women (18- to 24-year-olds) had enrolled in college compared to 39% of White men in that age group. Female enrollment rates were also higher for Blacks (41% vs. 33%) and Hispanics (40% vs. 32%). (See Figure 1.)

Observed differences between male and female enrollments during the pandemic have only been exacerbated, especially for men of color. Between fall 2019 and fall 2020, the undergraduate enrollment decline for males was nearly three times that of females (6.9% vs. 2.6%). (See Figure 2.) The largest declines were at community colleges where male students had considerably higher declines for every racial and ethnic category. Native American males had the steepest decline (-20.1%), followed by Blacks (-19.2%), Hispanics (-16.6%), and Whites at (-14.0%). (See Figure 3.)

This brief provides an overview of strategies and promising programs that offer an evidence base of impact for supporting Black and Latino males’ college access, opportunities, and success, though strategies could also be explored for their applicability to other student populations. Intended for college-going programs and advocates, such as institutional leaders and community providers or organizations, it aims to build understanding of interventions that can promote college access and attainment for male students from underserved groups.1 The motivation for this brief also reflects Helios Education Foundation’s commitment to ensuring that every individual in Arizona and Florida achieves a postsecondary education. To do that requires us to understand the challenges related to getting male students, and especially males of color, to attend postsecondary institutions.

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