Why Aren’t More Black High School Students Going To College?

Written By: Sope Aluko
Date: September 2016

According to a 2014 report for the U.S Department of Education, overall U.S high school student graduation rates are soaring like never before. Black and Hispanic students graduated at a 3.7 and 4.2 percentage point increase, correspondingly, over a two year period. During this same period, White students achieved only a 2.6 increase. Despite the fact that they have graduated from high school, numbers are showing that there are very few Black students going on to attend college.


A July 2016 report from the U.S Department of Education, gives us numbers about the state of higher education for African Americans. This report, which examined post secondary institutions from the 2015-2016 school year, degrees and other awards conferred,  as well as 12 month enrollment numbers from the 2014-2015 school year, reveals that a total  3,810,300 African Americans were enrolled at degree granting institutions in the 2014-2015 school year, with 448,952 of them being in graduate school programs. A more comprehensive release of the report shows that African Americans from 18-24 make up 34 percent of college students total. This is not enough. 

There are many barriers that African American face as they look to attend college that stem from the lack of preparation and knowledge given to them in the school systems and their communities, in a variety of vital area. An example of one of these vital areas is managing financing their college education.  The inability to pay for college is a major struggle that students have, largely due to the lack of financial smarts going into college.

In January 2016, CNBC reported that only 20 states require high school students to take economics, and only 17 states require students to take courses in personal finances, which has been the case since 2014 for both subject areas. Data from TheFinancial Regulatory Authority Investor’s Foundation showed thatstudents aged 18-22 who went to school in states where the financial education curriculum was rigorous, had better average credit scores and lower delinquency rates as young adults.

For Black students in particular, learning financial literacy early is imperative, as Blacks who do finish college struggle the most out of any other racial group in their post grad years, mainly due to financial reasons. Black students owe twice as much as their white counterparts in student debt, and are two times more likely to default on student loans, according to the Brookings Institute. Black students who are not able to fully fund themselves, result to dropping out. Unfortunately, 2/3 of Black drop out of college for financial reasons, according to the Journal of Higher Black Education.

For some black students that are foregoing college, it is because the importance of higher education is not impressed upon them in their communities, experts say. According to Child Trends, a non-profit organization that tracks children’s education, Black youth have very low educational expectations than those of White youth, stemming from the fact that Black parents are often less educated than White parents. These inequalities between the two races can be seen between children as young as four years old, as Black children are more likely to be enrolled in low-quality daycare, compared to White children. As the Black child continues through formal schooling, the struggle continues as the educations foundation because the educational foundation was weak to begin with.

While there are numerous other factors that are causing Black high school graduates to skip college, some issues outside of their control, many issues they face are obstacles that can be knocked down by providing them with the right amount of guidance and support, which will allow them to reach their ultimate level of success in their future endeavors.

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