Beating the odds

Although it may seem that black Americans receive publicity for negative reasons such as, crime, imprisonment and the ongoing AIDS epidemic, just to name a few, in recent years, black Americans have made headlines because of something positive; a rising trend among black Americans pursuing higher educations.

According to the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, the Department of Education found that in 2004, there were 2,164,700 black Americans enrolled in higher education, which resulted in them making up 12.5 percent of all college and university students in the United States. In1990, black students accounted for nine percent of all students enrolled in higher education. There were 718,300 black students enrolled full-time in higher education in 1990, but by 2004, that number increased by 78 percent. And since 2000, black American enrollments in higher education have increased 48 percent.

Brandy Lloyd, Dillard University educational talent search area coordinator, said she is not at all surprise that blacks are now seeking higher education. “Blacks are beginning to realize that a high school diploma isn’t going to bring them as far as it would have several years ago,” said Lloyd.

Like Lloyd, a few students attending HBCUs said they too are not surprised that there has been a tremendous increase in the number of blacks seeking higher education.

Tuesday Fuller, a sophomore at Prairie View A&M, said that she is not shocked that blacks are continuing their education after high school, but she would be shocked if they chose not to.

“It’s the 21st Century, Blacks are realizing that if they want more than their parents have, they must do more than their parents did,” said Fuller.

Fuller said that graduating from high school and furthering her education in college was never anything she contemplated, it was just understood. “My mother always made statements to me like, ‘When you go to college.’ She never said, ‘If you decide to go college,’ so from the very beginning, I knew I was going to school,” said Fuller. Fuller said she believes that attending college is one of the best things she could have done.

“I think going to school has saved me from being a statistic. If I would not have gone to school, I most likely would have been a victim of teenage pregnancy, working at a dead-end-job and living off of the government,” said Fuller.

Similar to Fuller, Lacey McCann a senior at Xavier University, said that attending college was never optional in her home either, it was mandatory. “I knew I was going to school my whole life. If I didn’t go to college my parents probably would have cut me off,” said McCann.

McCann added that by no means is she surprised that blacks are seeking higher education. “Blacks already have a strike against them, and now they are accepting the fact that a high school diploma is not going to take them anywhere. They need a degree,” said McCann. McCann, who plans to attend pharmacy school next fall, said that she believes that college degrees offer people an ocean full of opportunities. “There are countless numbers of opportunities out there for people with degrees, so their success in the future depends solely upon the way they chose to use their opportunities,” said McCann.

In contrast to Fuller and McCann, Shaheed Muhammad, a junior at Dillard University said that for him, attending college was not a dictatorship, but a democracy because it was strictly his decision. Muhammad said that even though he has always liked school, he sought a higher education, while in search of freedom. “I came to college to escape my parents because they are real strict. But when I got here, I appreciated my decision because I realized that I made the greatest investment on my life,” said Muhammad.

He said that his only strife with college is the price. “College is an experience everyone should have, but it is a shame it cost so much to get an education,” said Muhammad.

Like Lloyd, Fuller and McCann, Muhammad also said that he is not surprised that more black Americans are seeking higher education. “I went to a predominately black high school, and everyone I went to school with planned to go to college,” said Muhammad.

Even though studies show that there is a rise in black Americans seeking higher education, Fuller, McCann and Muhammad all asked the same question– Does this mean that more blacks are receiving degrees? The answer is no.

“I believe that we should not only go to college, but we should stay in college to graduate from college. We should not just get a degree, but we should use our degrees,” said Fuller.