Boosting College Success Among Men of Color

by Oscar Cerna; Alissa Gardenhire; Anna Marie Ivery

Dec 1, 2016

This brief catalogues strategies commonly used in interventions at postsecondary educational institutions aimed at improving outcomes for male students of color and charts the way forward for future evaluative work. While young men of color have college and career aspirations similar to those of their white counterparts, a significant gap persists between the two groups' postsecondary educational attainment. In response, colleges around the country have implemented targeted programs offering male students of color a variety of support services, yet few of these initiatives have been evaluated. MDRC has conducted a scan of 82 such programs and will apply lessons from it and other research to a large-scale evaluation of program efficacy that it is currently developing in collaboration with the University System of Georgia. The need for evidence-based approaches that support men of color throughout the educational pipeline is evident, especially at the postsecondary level, where so many male students of color are close to reaching their goals and fulfilling their potential as college graduates.

  • Among the programs reviewed, the most common program component is mentoring, with 90 percent of all initiatives incorporating some form of mentoring. In contrast, academic advising or counseling represents the least common component, though more than half of the programs offer these services to participants.
  • Factors identified in the research literature as critical to delivering effective mentoring include a strong match between mentor and mentee, proper training of mentors, and continuity of contact or perceived mentor reliability. College students (and mentors) must juggle school, work, family, and personal obligations that may reduce the time available for mentors and mentees to connect.
  • MDRC’s research indicates that mentoring alone is unlikely to produce significant impacts on academic performance and graduation rates.