Why Men of Color Aren’t Graduating From College

Let’s be straight when we talk about why it is men of color aren’t graduating from college.

It’s true, as this week’s College Board report notes, that just one in four African-American or Native-American men, and one in five Latino men, hold an associate’s degree or higher. But how can we be surprised about this outcome when boys of color attend public schools more segregated today than they were in the 1960’s? Since Brown v. Board of Education officially ended racial segregation in schools, white flight to private schools combined with residential segregation has isolated children of color. The way we finance schools concentrates funding in wealthy communities, which dooms poor children, often children of color, to attend schools severely lacking in resources.

The College Board’s report documents the alarming disparity in the graduation rate of young men of color when compared with their white male and minority female peers (educational attainment is higher for women within every racial group). The report explores these gaps at the high school and college levels, but it fails to examine and explain the root of the problem.

The urban school districts across the country that are responsible for educating huge numbers of children of color are, in many cases, collapsing. In Detroit, for example, officials announced yesterday a budget that would cut teacher salaries by 10 percent across the board in an attempt to reduce class size to a still-outrageous 30 students per elementary school classroom. In New York City, where African-American and Latino students comprise 82 percent of public school students, the New York Times reported this week that public high schools that earn “A” grades from the Department of Education still graduate many students who are not prepared for college-level work.

Thinking about why men of color don’t graduate from college in the numbers we would like them to without considering the boys trapped in these failing systems misses a crucial piece of the story.

What’s worse, in many places, boys of color spend their school days being treated like potential criminals. Major cities like New York increasingly rely on police to maintain classroom discipline, and many employ a “zero-tolerance” policy resulting in arrests of children for infractions as minor as having rap lyrics in their locker. Despite evidence that these policies do not make schools safer, as documented in a 2009 New York Civil Liberties Union report, overpolicing persists around the country. The College Board report notes the “alarming” fact that, of the 18- to 24-years olds in jail or prison, 42 percent are African-American, and 23 percent are Latino (although they make up just 7 percent and 8 percent of the population, respectively). But these statistics don’t reflect the unjust reality inside our public school systems, which all too often push young men of color toward the criminal justice system instead of toward college.

So, let’s add two recommendations to the College Board’s report: 1) Ensure that all schools have the resources they need to provide a quality education to all children; and 2) Eliminate the school-to-prison pipeline that funnels children out of the public school system into the criminal justice system. Instead of treating men and boys of color as delinquents and future dropouts, let’s invest in dismantling the structural barriers that continue to prevent them from achieving their full potential.

Add a comment (6)
Read the Terms of Use


Another problem is the way students are helped. The financial aid system is based upon the idea that "Mommy and Daddy" will take up the slack, or the student will work two jobs while going to school full time. The financial aid people (and sometimes even faculty) think that sleep is a luxury and that one can get by without rest.

If you have find problems getting a decent job (which is not unusual for minorities in many areas), life becomes very difficult. If you have any other problems (such as having a disability or being a 'non-traditional' student), life can be almost impossible. Such was my case, and I was forced to beg for food several times and nearly dropped out three times (even though I loved school).

Then you have tens of thousands in student loans hanging over your head, and when you can't find a job (because of race, religion, sexual orientation, disability, or age), getting a degree almost becomes an exercise in futility.

(FYI - Native Americans don't automatically get "government money" or scholarships, especially if you don't belong to a federally recognized tribe.)


Women of color attend those same schools and Black women are leaving Black men behind, especially as to graduating from college. And I almost never see Black women holding up signs asking for help at intersections or anywhere else. Hmm....?


Let's see, if logic serves me correctly
If I move to another country were I do
not understand, no, or care to no there culture, laws, or beliefs in life & living it in a MORAL fashion. What gives me the RIGHT to DEMAND or take anything other than what my heritage taught me to TAKE....Simply put.... If I couldn't function in a civilized world,,,, I'd get my frigging ducks in a row in less time than it takes to pass aclu, & aren't they the folks that recieve about 12-15% of funding from the very ones they file suit against,,, OUR COUNTRY!!!! Yikes, that's very, very $@&#$@ up. They are VERY dangerous
{ aclu } Soon they will reright the
BIBLE, CONSTITUTION, & probably the way
DNA is processed.... And fortunatly 4
me, I won't see it. { at least I hope not }.

Bruce William Smith

When viewed from an international perspective, this causal theory immediately collapses: Koreans, for example, are more segregated than Watts students, and have less spent per capita on their schooling, but among the world's leaders in educational attainment. Rather, it is resentment of perceived injustice that undermines educational attainment in our ghettos. Nonetheless, the proposed solution, educational and social equity, remains the right one.


Society has gotten worse.

Wanna see how many assaults take place against other students and teachers?


the rule still stands - if you behave like an adult, you will be treated like one. If you behave like an animal, you will be caged.

hey, there's th...

Since doing the people's business became just about 'business', the end result is that it is more profitable to build prisons than schools.

Sign Up for Breaking News