Are you fully committed to black student success? Or are you standing on the sidelines?
At Compton College, the start is approaching and we look forward to celebrating with an in-person celebration, as the pandemic has caused us to move the ceremony online for the past two years. These two years have presented extraordinary challenges for our students, especially our Black and African American students, who face disproportionate obstacles on their path to earning degrees and certificates – a crucial step towards building a prosperous future.
I am unwavering in my efforts to ensure that this group of students not only enroll in college, but also complete their classes, want more, and graduate. I have shared information on this topic at local and national conferences, in news media, and in a series of articles over the past year. The conversation continues today – I remain committed to unabashedly fighting for black student success.
My work as an advocate for Black student success is ongoing, and I was privileged to share these thoughts on the recent “PBS News Hour” series “Rethinking College.” This special report focuses on declining higher education enrollment and the pandemic, noting in particular that the steepest declines are occurring at community colleges, where enrollment has fallen 13% since 2019. The number was 21% for black men. Reversing this trend has become a focus at Compton College.
The report also featured our new Director of Black and Colored Success, Dr. Antonio Banks, who is dedicated to helping this group navigate college. Dr Banks noted that black students often need advice on the basics, including helping with food, housing and transportation issues – all key factors that can prevent them from going to college. . They cannot succeed in their studies if they are preoccupied with these important issues.
Dr. Banks is also setting up one-on-one support for Black students to work within the college’s existing Guided Pathways divisions, involving the entire academic team in the process. To have a truly successful and transformational program, it must be a large-scale team approach.
Black and African American students also need opportunities designed explicitly for them. Compton College recently established summer residential programs with Clark Atlanta University, Arizona State University, and UC Irvine. Students will be able to learn about transfer opportunities and earn Compton College units, while immersing themselves in a university setting.
All expenses will be paid and students will also receive a $1,000 stipend. Federal US bailout funding supports both our new position as Director of Black and Colored Success and summer residential programs.
The work at Compton College and other community colleges isn’t enough, and that’s why three years ago a coalition of California community college leaders and advocates created Black Student Success Week, held every year during the last week of April. Black Student Success Week provides a time to reflect on how we serve our Black and African American students. This is our chance to identify what works and what doesn’t.
Black Student Success Week 2022 is part of the theme “Black Student Success: Creating a New Landscape for Success” and highlights new approaches to ensure Black and African American students thrive at California community colleges as we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
There are many ways to participate, from professional development webinars to discussion forums, in addition to connecting on social media. Learn more about activities on Instagram and Twitter @CABlackStudents.
To ensure that our goals for Black and African American students are met, we need resources to support them. Budgets are your value statements. When you truly value black student achievement, you need to fund it.
When the math is done in the 2022-2023 California state budget, the state is to allocate $50 million to support Black student success at California Community Colleges. Funds should be used for hiring black faculty, professional development for faculty and staff, statewide mentorship programs for black employees and students, research and program evaluation and services, the expansion of programs such as the African American Male Education Network & Development, and most importantly, specific funding for each community college to focus on outreach and retention for Black and African American students. Enrollment and retention of Black and African American students at California community colleges is in a state of emergency and action and funding is needed now.
Right now we are in a crisis regarding the success of black and African American students. A crisis requires an emergency approach, which means we need to allocate resources now. We can’t wait.
We also have to decide whether we stay on the sidelines or are in the game. We can no longer just talk about the success of black and African-American students; we must champion the program on our campuses and across the state to improve outcomes for black students.
Are you fully committed to black student success or are you on the sidelines? This is the question students, educators, advocates, community members and elected officials should be asking themselves as we approach this state of emergency. Join me in continuing the fight for the success of our black and African-American students.
Keith Curry, Ed.D., is the president and CEO of Compton College.