More black men enroll in college

ATLANTA --- Thousands more young black men in Georgia are in college today because of an initiative aimed at growing their ranks in the state's colleges and universities.

Organizers of an initiative started five years ago by the University System of Georgia are touting increased black male enrollment as a result of its multipronged approach to boosting the numbers of black men attending the state's colleges and universities.

The system's African American Male Initiative reports that 21,249 students were enrolled in fall 2007, compared to 17,068 in fall 2002, an increase of 24.5 percent.

The group will present the findings and best practices this weekend in a two-day symposium at Kennesaw State University.

The initiative takes several approaches, including tutoring, mentoring, leadership development and college visitation.

Project director Arlethia Perry-Johnson said the issue is not limited to Georgia and has economic and social implications. She pointed out that black men are on the lower rung of high school graduates.

"You have a huge sector of our American population that is going uneducated," Ms. Perry-Johnson said. "When you start talking about mass numbers of your society not being educated, that then has implications for their economic viability."

The symposium will highlight five years of research and pilot programs and will feature local and national leaders on the issue. Among the speakers at the forum are Thomas Dortch Jr., the president emeritus of 100 Black Men of America, and author and activist Kevin Powell, the organizer of the State of Black Men Tour.

Research done as part of the initiative revealed several influences that can affect black men's choice to attend college, including whether their parents went, their socioeconomic environment, pressure from peers and their academic experiences in middle and high school -- especially whether they were encouraged or discouraged to pursue higher learning by their teachers and guidance counselors.

Researchers also found that issues such as a need to support their families, enlisting in the military and the thought of delayed gratification -- being broke for four years in a college setting while their peers make money by other means -- are challenges for black men.

When the initiative began in 2002, only three programs statewide addressed the issue of college enrollment by black men. Now, Ms. Perry-Johnson said, there are 20 programs at 16 University System of Georgia institutions. The state has invested more than $420,000 in the program.