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Report: 600,000 Fewer Black Students Enrolled in US Colleges vs 20 Years Ago

Report data shows the number of Black students enrolled in America's community colleges in 2020 was the same as in 2000.
Marharyta Hanhalo - stock.adobe.
Report data shows the number of Black students enrolled in America's community colleges in 2020 was the same as in 2000.

A recent report looking at Black enrollment in the nation's colleges shows a stark downturn in recent years. The Lumina Foundation's Level Up report says that despite a steadily growing Black young adult population since 2000, over the last 20 years Black student enrolment in the nation's colleges has declined by around 600,000, and 300,000 of those are students lost from the community college system. The report illustrates the more frequent financial and life challenges faced by Black students, including their being more likely to be caregivers to children or parents versus other students. Black learners are also more likely to be managing full-time jobs while attending school.

Christine Davis, vice chancellor of student affairs at St. Louis Community College said outreach to prospective Black students should be in formed by these realities.

"I think for a lot of prospective students, the question is, 'Well, how can I do that? How can I be a college student, while I'm also working, while I also have a child or children? And so how can I manage all of the pieces of life?'", she said.

She added St. Louis Community College works to connect students with resources that can enable them to afford college and manage the other responsibilities they may have in their personal lives. St. Louis Community Colleges offers work-study programs that give students the opportunity to work on campus, an option many find more convenient than working elsewhere.

The 2021 Community College Survey of Student Engagement found that 29% of all students are food insecure, but 43% of Black respondents reported running out of food in the prior 30 days. Davis added all St. Louis Community College campuses have food pantries to help students with food insecurity over the short term, but the staff will also help students access community resources to stabilize things over the longer term.

"We can also talk with them about connecting them with services or agencies in the community," Davis said. "So, whereas we can help short term, we want to make sure we have staff in our offices that will help to connect them with existing resources in the community as well."

While 11% of all students are caregivers to either children or adult family members or friends, that number is 22% for Black students. Davis said St. Louis Community College has a child care center at one location and another in the planning stages at a second campus, and added the college can also help connect eligible students to federal grant money to cover the cost of off-campus child care... efforts intended to make the campuses a welcoming place.

"We also want to create a community on our campuses where our students feel like they belong, so you know we want them to feel like they are important," she said. "And so all of the services, all of the engagement opportunities that we have on our campus, is so that they know that 'you belong here, we want you to stay. And if you run into an issue, come talk to us.' "

The Missouri Public News Service is a partner with KRCU Public Radio.

Brett brings 7 years of radio news writing experience at Metro Source. His reporting expertise is in monetary policy, economic systems, resource distribution, rent-seeking, and neo-feudalism.