National Institute on Aging

How to Stem the Alarming Decline in Black Enrollments in Higher Education

A new report from HCM Strategists – made possible with funding support from Lumina Foundation – finds that over the last 20 years, the nation has lost 300,000 Black learners from the community college system, with participation rates among Black students lower today than they were 20 years ago.

The report states that this decline is not occurring because Black learners are choosing other postsecondary outcomes; Black enrollment did not increase in any other sector over this time period. If we look at higher education as a whole, Black enrollments are down 600,000 students. Nor are Black learners opting to enter the workforce for “good” jobs. The decline is also not because the Black population is shrinking. In fact, the Black young adult population (18-34 years old) has steadily grown since 2000. The value proposition of postsecondary education is increasingly murky for Black learners — both in Black learner perception and societal reality.

The study concludes that “it is critical for Black Americans to have equitable opportunities to attain a postsecondary credential which creates access to higher-wage jobs and increases social and political capital that impacts not only their lives but their families, future generations, and increased economic sustainability for America’s overall economy. This reality must be changed — not just the narrative — through intentional investment and joint action delivering on these core commitments to ensure Black learners thrive.”



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