For men of color, high academic motivation does not bring academic success

March 18, 2014

Despite higher levels of engagement in the community college experience—from rarely skipping classes to accessing tutoring services more frequently—male students of color have lower academic outcomes than White male students who are significantly less engaged, according to a recent University of Texas at Austin report.

"Aspirations to Achievement: Men of Color and Community Colleges" was produced by the College of Education's Center for Community College Student Engagement (CCCSE). It is based on responses from more than 453,000 students nationwide to the Community College Survey of Student Engagement.

"Despite Black and Hispanic males reporting higher aspirations to earn a community college certificate or degree than their White peers, only 5 percent of those who attend earn certificates or degrees in three years, as opposed to 32 percent of White males," said Kay McClenney, CCCSE director. "Realities like this prompted us to look at what contributes to the achievement gaps and suggest ways community colleges can better support Black and Hispanic males' success."

Research consistently shows that in undergraduate education there is a positive correlation between students' levels of engagement—with , other students and the subject matter—and their academic success, said McClenney. An engaged student tends to do things like meet with advisers to discuss career plans, work on projects with other students outside of class, spend hours rewriting and perfecting a research paper, and ask questions in class.

Among , Black males are the most engaged, followed by Hispanics, and White males are the least engaged of the three groups. This pattern is consistent across benchmarks and more than 10 years of CCCSE data. When it comes to achievement, the results are reversed—White males consistently have the highest grades and college completion rates, followed by Hispanics. Black males report the lowest outcomes.

"The findings don't mean engagement isn't beneficial for Black and Hispanic male students," said McClenney. "They just signify there are additional factors contributing to these groups' academic success or failure, and we really need to understand what those are."

Using the center's survey data and past scientific research, the report offers two major reasons for the lower academic outcomes: and college readiness.

Stereotype threat refers to what people experience when they are afraid of confirming society's negative expectations of someone with their social identity (that identity could be based on race, ethnicity, gender, age or religion, for example).

"Even when the stereotyping is subtle and there are no bad intentions or active prejudice intended, stereotype threat can be triggered and have negative results," said McClenney. "Research indicates this threat is a significant cause of minority underachievement in U.S. higher education."

Regarding college readiness, the report states that Black and Hispanic students tend to start college needing significant help with academic skills development in multiple areas.

ACT data show, for example, that students of color are much less likely to meet ACT college readiness benchmarks. Around 16 percent of Black students meet the benchmark in reading, compared with 29 percent of Hispanic students and 54 percent of White students. About 14 percent of Black students meet the benchmark in math, compared with 30 percent of Hispanic students and 54 percent of White students.

"CCCSE data reveal that even higher levels of engagement of students of color can't compensate for the effects of beginning college already well behind the starting gate in terms of academic readiness," said McClenney.

To address these achievement gaps, the report recommends that community colleges must first acknowledge the reality that "systematic disparities in opportunity and privilege characterize the lives—and educational experiences—of people of color in American society." It suggests colleges implement high-impact practices that will benefit all students, such as fostering personal connections, setting high expectations and offering high-quality instruction from very engaged faculty members.

Colleges also are encouraged to:

  • regularly solicit student feedback.
  • gather and disaggregate data that accurately describe ' educational experiences.
  • redesign developmental education.
  • boost cultural awareness and competence.
  • improve faculty and staff diversity.

In addition to examining student responses from the Community College Survey of Student Engagement, the report also used data from more than 30 student focus groups with Black, Hispanic and White males at community colleges and the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society national convention, as well as six focus groups with community college faculty members and staffers.

Explore further: Report identifies high-impact educational practices for community colleges

More information: "Aspirations to Achievement: Men of Color and Community Colleges" and a companion DVD of student focus groups can be downloaded at

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5 / 5 (2) Mar 18, 2014
"the report offers two major reasons for the lower academic outcomes: stereotype threat and college readiness"
How about another -- differences in aptitude and interest. Who are best athletes, the best scientists, the best musicians, etc? If you demand everybody be the same, it's going to make a very sterile, oppressive world.
5 / 5 (2) Mar 18, 2014
In addition to lower aptitude scores, the minority students are more likely to have illegitimate children: http://www.cdc.go...1_05.pdf

If you go into junior college with a low aptitude score (meaning you have to take more courses to make up the difference), and then you have to secure two part-time jobs to pay your baby-mama to get her nails done, how do you find time to study? Blaming hidden racism while ignoring arguably bad life choices is a stupid approach. Some cultural changes are what's needed. Having kids out of wedlock, without planning for them, is great for cheap labor. But that isn't going to do these students any favors. They're not going to college so they can work at Jiffy Lube for the rest of their lives.
1 / 5 (1) Mar 18, 2014
Sometimes if you want something too much, you have trouble getting it.
5 / 5 (2) Mar 18, 2014
"For men of color, high academic motivation does not bring academic success"

"Men of color"??? How very scientific.
So, which men colors/shades are in and which ones are out?
5 / 5 (2) Mar 18, 2014
College readiness is a big factor in this case.

The deficit in the overall performance of African-Americans can be primarily attributed to the sub-culture of anti-intellectualism as well as poor parenting. African-American families tend to have only one parent in the household, and this parent is typically the mother. Lack of a stable family can cause many issues in allowing for children to grow up in a stable and proper manner.

The lack of cognitive stimulation is another major factor. African-American children are read to much less than Hispanic or White children, and this has major implications, such as inhibiting the overall performance of African-American children in verbal ability. Overall, African-Americans suffer from a lack of good role models, lack of social support within the communities they are associated with as well as limited access to resources.
5 / 5 (1) Mar 19, 2014
"For men of color, high academic motivation does not bring academic success"

"Men of color"??? How very scientific.
So, which men colors/shades are in and which ones are out?

I guess they left out East Asian/Indian men of "Color" from this study .
3 / 5 (2) Mar 19, 2014
The deficit in the overall performance of African-Americans can be primarily attributed to the sub-culture of anti-intellectualism as well as poor parenting.

That (if it were true) would not explain why those that do apply themselves do not succeed as much.

But what I find a bit questionable is that whether those who are "rarely skipping classes and accessing tutoring services more frequently" are automatically those with better academic skills.

Thinking back I found that those who would go on to excell were often among those with little need for tutoring or class attendance.

Note: Certainly there is a large fraction of people who don't attend classes or tutoring that drop right one should not deduce that someone who doesn't attend classes is automatically smart from the fact that the smart ones often skip classes.
5 / 5 (1) Mar 23, 2014
The reason that blacks and Hispanics do not perform as well as whites is because their IQs are lower. That is not a racist statement. It is a statistical fact. Instead of blaming everything on the white race why not look at the evidence and consider for a moment that there are population differences in IQ. It is a fact that IQ is largely heritable. Why should different human populations, which evolved for thousands of years under different selective pressures, have the exact same IQ? The average IQ of a black american is on average 85 or about 1 STDev below the white mean. Do highly intelligent blacks exist? Of course, however, there are more whites with a 140+ IQ than blacks with a 140 IQ.

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