Don’t Quit, Getting That Edu-Ma-Cation Will Always Be Important

By Walter L. Hilliard III –

As a former college retention coordinator and basketball coach, who has created leadership and mentoring programs for a diverse socio-economic pool of students, I know, first hand, what it takes for a student to make it through college.  But every student is an individual, and predicting the result of the interaction between their potential and the influence of the college environment is not a science, either.

Currently, not enough Black kids are making it through or graduating from college.   According to the U.S. Department of Education, Black men are about 8 percent of the population of 18-24-year-olds in the country, yet they are only about 3 percent of the undergrads at flagship public universities.  And only 33 percent of Black males graduate, while 44 percent of Black females do.  Both of these groups of Black students fall below the national average of 57 percent for all students.   In regards to White men, 55 percent graduate, while only 41 percent of Hispanic men do.

By 2017 most of those entering our nation’s colleges will be minority students, outnumbering Whites for the first time.  But what’s disturbing for Black students  when looking at the low graduation rates is that education is one of the few ways Blacks have always “gotten ahead” in our society.  Additionally, one of the facts that we often don’t consider regarding our attending college, prepared or unprepared, is if we don’t graduate, not only does our self-esteem (a self-esteem that is already damaged by racism) take a major hit, but we’re also saddled with debt — and we have no degree to get a better paying job.

I have sat and talked with students who were crying.  And I sometimes stepped in on their behalf and fought for their “college lives” with the academic dean who was going to dismiss them.  I won some, and I lost some.  But the issue in many cases is too many Black (and White) students party and/or ignore their academic responsibilities and end up on academic probation and eventually dismissed, thus, only realizing the error of their ways too late.

Solutions?

Be  be prepared (and feel lucky if you are going into or had some sort of college preparatory class).  Also, treat college like a business, first, and fun , second.  Thirdly, be persistent, despite the obstacles, and decide that they are going to have you throw you out; you cannot have the word quit in your vocabulary.  Most of the Black students I entered with at Kutztown University many moons ago were gone or didn’t graduate, but many did, and all — including those who flunked out or left for financial or other personal reasons — were smart and capable; some just needed more support.   

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