Recruiting, retaining black men

As is true at many historically black colleges and universities, black women significantly outnumber black men in the University System of Georgia.

Of the system’s 89,000 black students enrolled in fall 2011, more than 60 percent are female.

System officials recognize the gender gap, and through the systemwide African-American Male Initiative — which has created 37 programs on 23 campuses geared toward their educational achievement — schools have attempted to attract, recruit, retain and ultimately, graduate black men.

Arlethia Perry-Johnson, the state director for AAMI, said since the program started in 2002, the number of black males getting bachelor’s degrees has jumped 50 percent — from 1,294 in 2003 to 1,938 in 2010.

“For us, this is not a social agenda, it is an economic agenda,” Perry-Johnson said.

In addition, the graduation rate for black men in the University System is now 40 percent, and the percent of black male freshmen returning as sophomores is 77 percent.

“A college degree is the ticket to economic viability. We have increased the number of black men earning degrees in a wide variety of fields and disciplines, which has allowed them to sustain themselves economically,” said Perry-Johnson, who is also the vice president of external affairs at Kennesaw State University.

Many participated in programs such as Providing Resources to Ignite Male Excellence at Georgia Tech; Brother 2 Brother at Atlanta Metropolitan College; and Project MENtorship at Southern Polytechnic State.

“My office sees every African-American male at the university as a target for our efforts to help them to graduate,” said the University of West Georgia’s Jack Jenkins, who oversees the school’s AAMI programming.

UWG is 30 percent black, and the AAMI program features tutoring, mentoring and bonding programs for men if they want it.

With its downtown Atlanta location and its affordability, Georgia State attracts many black students. In fall 2011, more than one-third of its 32,000 students were black, giving it the biggest African-American population of any school in the state. (By comparison, only 8 percent of the University of Georgia’s 35,000 students were black.)

“We try to reach them while they are in high school. Our recruiters go out, but we welcome everyone, even sixth- and seventh-graders,” said David Smith Jr., Georgia State’s assistant director for the office of African-American student services. “We give them tours of the campus, let them interact with students, give them financial aid briefings and encourage them to pursue graduate degrees once they get here.”