A study by The Boston Foundation and MassINC show that Black and Hispanic community college graduates in Massachusetts are more likely to be employed and earn more than community college graduates in other demographic groups. Unfortunately, Black and Hispanic students are more likely to drop out before completing a degree.
The study followed low-income high school graduates in Massachusetts between 2010 and 2018. Black and Hispanic students are twice as likely as white students to attend a community college. At the same time, they’re only half as likely to complete a degree.
Additionally, the study found that men who complete an associate degree or certificate can earn as much as $9,000 more per year than high school graduates. Men who enroll at a community college but do not graduate do not experience any increase in their earnings.
The salary bump for women was lower – only $8,000 for women who graduate with a two-year degree. However, women – unlike men – can boost their earnings by just attending community college. The annual average increase for women who attended but did not graduate from a community college was $1,550.
The study provides another argument for developing strategies to retain and graduate more Black and Hispanic community college students. Since 2009-10, WCC’s six-year graduation rate for Black males has not exceeded 39%. The Boston Foundation study suggests that Black men who don’t finish a two-year program get no monetary benefit from attendance.
Black and Hispanic men who don’t graduate miss benefits
Worse, if Black and Hispanic community college students borrow to attend classes, they put themselves in a financially worse position when they leave school. Even if they haven’t borrowed, they’ve still lost their “investment” in tuition, fees and books. They may also have burned financial aid eligibility. While this may not take money directly out of their pockets, it may limit access to certain need-based aid in the future.
Recently, I wrote about a program at Prince George’s Community College that works specifically to increase retention and graduation among Black students. Since 2009, the program has enabled Prince George’s CC to graduate 2000 additional Black males. The study demonstrates the need for and value of working with minority students to increase their graduation rates. By understanding why these students have not graduated or cannot graduate on time, community colleges can design targeted initiatives to increase both retention and graduation among Black and Hispanic community college students.
The data show that Black male students complete programs and graduate at a much lower rate than female students do. There are also data that show that creative initiatives to increase both retention and graduation among these vulnerable student populations. Further, additional data show that minority males who do complete community college degrees are more employable and earn more money.
It’s beyond time to develop strategies to support Black and Hispanic community college students who are least likely to graduate. Doing so enables them to reap the benefits of a post-secondary education. It also allows the community to reap the benefits of its investment in higher education.
Photo Credit: WOCinTechChat, via Flickr