Augusta State University is trying to use the high school graduating class of 2012 to fill a void on campus: the black male.
“Not only do we want those students to enter our institution, we want to retain them and graduate them as well,” said Karen Belk, the university’s director of student development.
As of this fall, just 7.8 percent of ASU’s 6,741 students were black men. That is below the 9.7 percent rate for the University System of Georgia’s schools.
To recruit more black men to campus, ASU will offer a summer bridge program in June to help with the transition from high school to college. The program will offer 30 students free enrollment in a three-credit required study skills course along with math, reading and English workshops, mentoring and career and financial information sessions.
To qualify, applicants must be 2012 high school graduates, not have any college credit and plan to attend ASU next fall.
The program is part of the University System’s African American Male Initiative, which was launched at a sample of state schools in 2002 and brought to ASU in 2006. Although the initiative has held workshops and advised on campus for five years, this summer will be the third time the university has offered the summer bridge program.
Deltrye Holt, the program coordinator at ASU, said the summer session helps black men get used to a college setting and increase their likelihood of receiving a degree.
“I think about it sort of like learning to drive a car,” Holt said. “It’s possible to just give someone the keys and say, ‘Go,’ but that would be catastrophic.”
Statewide, the African American Male Initiative has increased the success rate for keeping black males in school. The number of bachelor’s degrees conferred annually to black males at University System institutions has increased by 50 percent since the program’s inception, according to Arlethia Perry-Johnson, the University System’s African American Male Initiative project director.
Enrollment of black males in state-funded universities has increased by 67 percent in the past eight years.
“We’re very proud of the outcome, but it doesn’t mean that we’ve completed what is necessary,” Perry-Johnson said. “Black male performance rates are lower against all of their other peer groups; white male, white female, black female. Our desire is to continue to close those performance gaps.”
In enhancing student performance, Belk said certain indicators have improved because of the initiative on campus. In 2006, the program’s first year at ASU, the university retained 48 percent of black male students. In 2007 the retention rate jumped to 67 percent, which Belk said had everything to do with the outreach to these students.
ASU graduate Andre Goodman said that when he came to ASU in 2006, he felt like he needed extra support to be successful in college.
“I didn’t know anybody at Augusta State,” Goodman said. “I kind of felt isolated in a sense. I kind of just came to class and went home.”
When Belk, who then was the initiative’s coordinator at ASU, contacted Goodman about the summer bridge program, he said the workshops and mentoring helped him network with students and staff and gain much-needed confidence.
“It kind of reinvigorated me to want to pursue my education a little bit more seriously,” Goodman said. “It was one of those group effects when you just want to do better because you’re surrounded by people doing well.”
The confidence and resources Goodman gained that summer encouraged him to get more involved. He soon became a student body president and created contacts to last a lifetime.
Now with a political science degree in hand, Goodman works as an academic adviser at ASU’s Master of Arts in teaching program and encourages students to take advantage of the same help he received.
“It’s hard to get people to apply for these types of programs because they perceive it as a stigma, even though it’s not a stigma at all,” Goodman said. “It’s a positive reinforcement.”