A recent report on the situation of Black students in community colleges highlights declining enrollment since the pandemic and the pervasive inequitable policies that create barriers to higher education.
The report was published by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies. Director of Workforce Policy at the Joint Center, Dr. Alex Camardelle, said for many black Americans, community colleges hold the promise of getting jobs and access to higher education. . Camardelle fears that current policies are creating alarming racial disparities in these institutions.
“Black workers are struggling to make ends meet during this health and economic crisis. Community colleges provide a pathway to ensure job market readiness for all, but there are barriers that prevent Black students from reaching their full potential,” Camardelle said.
The report found that black student enrollment at community colleges has steadily declined over time and plummeted during the COVID-19 pandemic. From fall 2019 to fall 2021, enrollment dropped 18% for all black students who also experienced the lowest graduation rates compared to their peers.
“In fact, findings from a recent Joint Center report show that black community college students experience lower graduation rates and earn tens of thousands of dollars less after graduation, all while facing take on more debt than their peers to pay for their education,” Camardelle said. “But, it doesn’t have to be like that.”
Unfortunately, some of these enrollment trends are also reflected in New York City institutions.
Jesse F. Kane is Senior Vice President for Student Success and Enrollment Management at Medgar Evers College. Although Medgar Evers is a prestigious four-year undergraduate college that offers associate degree programs rather than a community college, Kane noted a decline in 2-year degrees.
“Following the national trend, we saw our biggest drop in enrollment in our 2-year degree programs,” Kane said. “This decline was exacerbated by the pandemic, during which we experienced a drop of more than 15%. We are implementing strategies to restore this student population by continuing to leverage our Accelerated Associate Studies Program (ASAP), which is designed to remove barriers faced by student associates.
According to a spokesperson for the City University of New York (CUNY), the percentage of black students enrolled in CUNY community colleges has not declined since 2019, although enrollment has declined in all fields during the pandemic, which is in line with national trends. CUNY’s community colleges are Guttman Community, Queensborough, Kingsborough, Bronx Community, Hostos, Manhattan Community, and LaGuardia Community.
“CUNY has taken many steps to help students who have interrupted their studies to re-enroll and has created more workforce development programs to attract new students, including those who want to upgrade in fields in high demand but are not looking for a formal degree,” the spokesperson said. . “The road to recovery in New York runs through CUNY, and we are working with our partners in government and the private sector to provide more students with the education and skills they need to succeed in the workplace and improve their economic mobility.
The spokesperson said CUNY has taken several steps to help students during the pandemic, including forgiving more than $100 million in debt to more than 57,000 students through The CUNY Comeback program, not withholding the statement grades for students in debt and handing out $636 million in federal emergency grants. and nearly $10 million through the Chancellor’s Emergency Fund.
The report also finds that the average black community college graduate earns $20,000 less per year than their peers, and that white households with only high school graduates earn $2,000 more than black college graduates. a community college.
Camardelle said that by addressing basic student needs, such as child care, tuition, and better transfer policies, community colleges can work to produce more equitable outcomes for black students.
“And the biggest benefit of all – free community college tuition will benefit black students the most,” Camardelle said.
Free college may be a tad ambitious, but at least the Biden-Harris administration appears to be making progress on its promise of student debt relief. The plan is expected to help borrowers and families recover from the pandemic and prepare to resume student loan repayments in January 2023.
By targeting student debt relief, Biden hopes to at least narrow the racial wealth gap since nearly 71% of black undergraduate borrowers are Pell Grant recipients, and 65% of Latino undergraduate borrowers are Pell Grant recipients.
Governor Kathy Hochul also gave the green light to the part-time TAP program in August 2022. The program is a $150 million extension of New York State’s popular Tuition Assistance Program. It will now include students who continue their studies on a part-time basis.
Ariama C. Long is a member of the Report for America corps and writes about New York culture and politics for The Amsterdam News. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps him keep writing stories like this; please consider making a tax deductible donation of any amount today visiting : https://tinyurl.com/fcszwj8w