Capturing the Student Voice was funded by the College Board as a component of their College Completion Agenda. In it we explored the experiences of African-American, Asian-American/Pacific Islander, Hispanic/Latino, and Native American students across the country, diving into how they get ready, get in, and get through college, in order to better design relevant opportunities for increasing college completion.
How might we bring the minority male student experience to life in a way that makes their voice central to our conversation about transforming the education system to improve their college experience and completion rates?
The College Board’s College Completion Agenda set a national goal of ensuring that 55 percent of the population, aged 24 to 34, holds an associate degree or higher by the year 2025. By understanding what factors affect young men of color — a group that struggles more than any other in the nation to persist and achieve successful college outcomes — we can bring their experience to the national conversation on education transformation, and develop opportunities to better meet their needs and enhance their educational experiences.
We talked with more than 90 students from a mix of 39 institutions across the country. To capture the student voice, we conducted an interlocking set of research activities including individual, group, and peer-to-peer interviews (in person and remote), on-site observation, and self-documentation exercises. Such a qualitative research approach enables stakeholders to see the experience through the lens of the student, to better appreciate the dynamics of the educational system through the student’s eyes, and to more readily identify opportunities for intervention and innovation. The student population was composed of a roughly even mix of first-year to fifth-year matriculated students, as well as high school seniors and students who have left college as graduates, stop outs, or dropouts. This pool allowed us to examine the day-to-day challenges of persistence, issues that prevent or propel students to completion, and special issues high school students face as they prepare for postsecondary education — and ultimately assess the factors that have the most significant impact on student success when they are engaged (or intend to engage) with higher education.
The findings from this study, available in the project’s report, reveal that although young men of color face several of the same issues the general higher education population also face — issues such as school choice and fit, affordability, navigating the system, and preparedness — this group remains underserved due to many additional issues that hinder their success. In exploring key aspects of students’ experiences, we point to the roadblocks that impede their success, and to the catalysts that propel them forward. Through this work, BIF has identified six opportunities for change that bring the perspective of the male student of color to the discussion. The College Board report “The Educational Experience of Young Men of Color: A Review of Research, Pathways, and Progress” includes a comprehensive list of ideas meant to address the educational problems minority males face. These multi-faceted solutions involve policy, research, institutional, and community approaches.