County’s blacks, U focus of GC study

by Brad Unangst

A concern raised about the number of local black males not employed or enrolled in college prompted some Hennepin County officials to ask the University’s General College to examine the issue.

The study, discussed Monday at a forum sponsored by the General College, found that from 1994-97, 51 out of 1,235 black males from Hennepin County public high schools enrolled at the University.

“I was startled by the low number of African-American males attending the University,” said Gary Cunningham, director of the Hennepin County Planning Office, the agency that requested the study.

Black males had lower high school rankings and college entrance exam scores and were missing expected high school preparatory classes, the study also found.

The study also reported that once in college, black males earned lower grade point averages and were less likely to graduate. They also were less likely to advance out of General College to other degree-granting colleges at the University.

Officials said one drawback of the study was the narrow focus on black males only from Hennepin County.

“This started to paint a picture, but it is incomplete,” said Dana Lundell, Center for Research on Developmental Education director. “It shows we really need to partner with the community and county.”

The University tries to foster community involvement in area high schools through programs such as Trio, a federally-funded service that addresses class and race barriers to higher education.

Bruce Schelske, director of Student Support Services – one of the Trio services implemented at the University – said programs such as Upward Bound and Educational Talent Search help identify and prepare high school students for college.

Students in Trio are more than twice as likely to stay in school than peers not involved in the program, according to the group’s literature.

Cunningham said the University’s Trio programs are beneficial, but the report should incite action by the University to start building a bridge to Minnesota communities with high numbers of black males.

“Obviously the University is not doing enough based on the numbers going there,” Cunningham said. “It’s time for a different approach.”

Abdul Kamara, a kinesiology junior, said the University must increase its commitment to recruiting high school students.

“If they don’t make an effort, it’s not going to change,” Kamara said.

Brad Unangst welcomes comments at [email protected]