OCTAE Connection Newsletter - Issue 195 - May 8, 2014

OCTAE Newsletter

                                   May 8, 2014

Aspirations and Achievement of Minority Male Students

                       What’s the Gap About?


Black and Latino male students enroll in community colleges with higher aspirations than do their white male counterparts, but white men are six times more likely to graduate in three years with a degree or a certificate, according to Aspirations to Achievement: Men of Color and Community Colleges, recently published by the Center for Community College Student Engagement. In his foreword, Walter Bumphus, president and CEO of the American Association of Community Colleges, opined that “our nation’s distribution of education is as polarized as its distribution of wealth.”

Bumphus sees community colleges as key to the solution of alleviating this polarization. Closing the achievement gap between men of color and other groups of students “has to happen at community colleges,” where black males and Latinos tend to enroll, he says.

While the achievement gaps related to race and some ethnicities are broadly prevalent, “men of color complete community college degrees and certificates at disproportionately low rates.”

Identifying causes of and finding solutions for these disparities are not easy. According to the report, “Race and ethnicity intersect in complicated ways with gender, socioeconomic status, college readiness, and other factors.”

Some dimensions of the achievement gap problem are clear. Minority students tend to matriculate with less in the way of academic skills. Only 14 percent of black students and 30 percent of Latinos meet ACT college-readiness standards in mathematics; the percentage for white students is 53 percent. On the reading readiness test, the rank order is the same: blacks (16 percent), Latinos (29 percent), whites (54 percent).

While black males enter colleges less academically prepared, that is not the only issue affecting their results. Aspirations to Achievement takes notice of evidence from another study, Separate and unequal: How higher education reinforces intergenerational reproduction of white privilege about the role and success of community colleges and noncompetitive four year colleges. In that study, the authors, A. Carnevale and J. Strohl, note that “There are significant differences in outcomes among equally qualified whites, African Americans, and Hispanics that derive from the increasing relegation of African-American and Hispanic students to the crowded, underfunded, open-access, two- and four-year colleges.”

Lack of engagement among minority males, however, can be ruled out as a causal factor. Among males, black males are the most engaged (in tutoring programs and orientation sessions, for example). Other factors have to be considered, including some discussed in Aspirations to Achievement. Stereotype threat, a phenomenon associated with the research of Claude Steele and Joshua Aronson, receives special attention.

To address the achievement gap, colleges must revisit their historical inclination to rely on specially designed programs. From this and similar perspectives, it is a mistake to attempt to “fix” students. As the report explains, “No community college can fully address achievement gaps across racial and ethnic groups without first acknowledging that systematic disparities in opportunity and privilege characterize the lives—and educational experiences—of people of color in American society.” And, thus, “Closing achievement gaps may require reimagining the entire community college experience,” writes Bumphus.

TAACCCT Grants Program’s Fourth and Final Round Opens with $450 Million Available

                     Applications Due July 

The Department of Labor’s (DOL) Employment and Training Administration (ETA) recently announced the availability of some $450 million in grant funds for the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) Grants Program. DOL intends to make grant awards to eligible single institution applicants in all states, as well as to consortia of eligible institutions. The closing date for applications is July 7, 2014, no later than 4 p.m. EST. OCTAE stakeholders are encouraged to review the full grant announcement for eligibility, application, and award information.

Through this fourth and final round of TAACCCT funding, DOL is focused on “advancing innovative, sector-based system change in regional and statewide economies …. These grant projects will create industry-driven strategies that are responsive to regional labor markets and state economies.” The grant program seeks to “increase the number of workers who attain certificates, degrees, and other industry-recognized credentials …” It also aims to “introduce or replicate innovative and effective methods for designing and delivering instruction that address specific industry needs and lead to improved learning, completion, and other outcomes …; and demonstrate improved employment outcomes” to help meet the administration’s “college graduation goal of increasing the percentage of adults with a post-secondary credential by 2020.”

DOL is implementing TAACCCT in partnership with the U.S. Department of Education in the jointly held belief that the program can provide impetus, through higher education, for the creation of career pathways for adults to skilled jobs in growth industries, thereby enhancing both individuals’ lives and the U.S. economy.