African-Americans not represented on campus

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I recently read something that disturbed me, and it should disturb you too.

“The African-American male is disappearing from higher education,” said Charles Reed, California State University chancellor, in a recent news report from the Oakland Tribune.

The numbers are depressing.

About 22,000, or 6.9 percent, out of almost 400,000 of the enrolled CSU undergraduate student body for Fall 2004, are African American, according to CSU Analytic Studies, which releases annual statistical reports on the university sytem’s website.

Less than half of that number are African American males.

I tried not to allow the news affect me, but it simply has.

Why I have not seen many African Americans in my classes has always stayed in the back of my mind, but now it is as if the problem is staring me in the face. Quite often, I was the only African American male in my class. It made me feel like I was part of a race that is dying off. It should not be that way.

Are African Americans, especially black males, disappearing from higher education?

CSUN stands out slightly in African American enrollment, with 9.5 percent, or about 2,300, of its population being black, according to the same CSU report.

I hate to slightly digress from my main point, but the problem does not only involve African Americans, but also involves American Indians, who only make up about 1 percent, or about 3,000 of the CSU population, according to the CSU.

A group classified as “other Latino(s)” make up 7 percent of the population, or about 23,000. Mexican Americans make up about 18.6 percent, or about 61,000 of the CSU population.

The numbers in other college systems do not seem any better.

The Oakland Tribune, in the same news piece, reported that just in the University of California, Berkeley, 129 African American students make up the 2004-05 freshman class, which totals about 4,000.

Besides the slightly higher number of African Americans who graduate from historically black colleges and universities – from Alabama A’M University to Xavier University of Louisiana – the numbers nationwide are not very promising.

Out of 20.4 million in the United States, age 25 or older, about 17 percent received a bachelor’s degree, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s fairly recent March 2002 report titled “The Black Population in the United States.” The report stated that more women earned bachelor’s degrees.

Access to higher education provides us with the opportunity to expand and challenge ourselves and positively contribute to the world we live in, and African Americans, along with other minority groups, should definitely be a part of that.

Several African Americans who have made significant contributions to society, such as W.E.B. DuBois and Charles Richard Drew, had postsecondary education. We should continue this and push for enrollment growth.

I think the more pressing question is why is the number so low? If we find out why the number is so low, perhaps we can do something to ensure, or at least, make a very promising effort to give African Americans an education in the nation’s largest four-year university system, the CSU.

Here are a few possible reasons why the numbers are low: Several African Americans and other minorities are widely known to be of a lower socioeconomic status, and therefore cannot afford to go to college. However, there still is community college.

Next is the possible explanation that several African Americans and minorities are in the prisons and jails in this nation. Others have said college enrollment is not encouraged enough in the African American community.

Some CSU and African-American community leaders suggested creating new programs that do not just do outreach services. They suggested having training groups that teach the fundamentals of college entrance, hoping that these will create an atmosphere that encourages blacks to go to college.

Whatever the problem or problems are, it needs to be fixed. As the saying goes, the brain is a terrible thing to waste.

Samuel Richard can be reached at samuel.richard@csun.edu.