At colleges and universities across the country, a troubling new trend in admissions is emerging, with widespread social implications. A substantial gender gap has appeared between black men and women, as black female students outnumber their male counterparts by ever-increasing margins. The disproportionately low number of black men earning college degrees threatens to halt efforts within the black community to break free of poverty and establish a stronger presence within the middle class.
Here at the University, males comprise only 40 percent of the black student population. While there may be no simple solution capable of bridging the 20-percent gap between black men and women, a discrepancy rooted in deep societal problems, there are a number of important steps the University should be taking to set an example by improving the situation on a local scale.
One deterrent that often keeps black males from enrolling at the University is a lack of financial support. The cost of attendance, which is rapidly becoming prohibitive even for middle-class families, must be addressed. To help compensate for economic barriers, the University should offer larger financial aid packages. This can be done through expanding merit-based and need-based scholarship programs, encouraging private scholarship funds and securing more government money for educational grants.
Already, the University’s Office of Academic and Multicultural Initiatives works to encourage a more diverse student body. Through its programs that recruit and support underrepresented groups, OAMI helps draw minority groups to the University. Recent statistics showing an increase in minority applications indicate that these efforts may have been successful. In addition to these helpful outreach programs, OAMI can use its tactics to specifically target black males.
A problem pervading many urban high schools and communities is the perception that sports are more important than studies — that the best route to success is through athletics, not academics. The University should work with middle schools and high schools in urban areas to combat this misconception. Often, college is considered a distant dream — while most suburban children are expected to attend an institute of postsecondary education after high school, this is not the case for many students who grow up in an urban environment. This grave misconception must be addressed, and college must be presented as a viable option for all graduating high school students.
Finally, beyond just encouraging students to attend college, University representatives should work to facilitate it by providing tangible support for those who wish to apply. Students who have guidance while filling out applications and writing essays find the college application process much less daunting and intimidating. Students in wealthier communities already benefit from well-paid, highly competent college admissions counselors, who offer advice and guidance during the application process. By going into urban areas, outreach officials can offer similar support to the underrepresented minorities the University is attempting to recruit.
The University has the opportunity to play a leading role not only in enabling young students to attend college, but also in transforming society. The growing gender gap between black men and women threatens the future of an entire community, and the University is in a position to make a difference.