Equity & Diversity Opinion

‘Men of Merit’ in College

By Richard Whitmire — February 10, 2010 1 min read
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While researching my book I spent a couple of days at California State University in Fullerton, in the exurbs of Los Angeles. This huge university, which draws mostly commuter students from families with little college-going experience, serves as a bellwether -- reflecting the racial and ethnic mix of the future.

On graduation day at Cal State campuses -- the biggest university system in the country with 450,000 students -- there are two women for every man. And Fullerton is no exception.

What was especially interesting to me was the vastly better graduation rate of the women there. Not only did more women enroll, but far more of those who did enroll ended up graduating. At Fullerton, 55 percent of the women graduated within six years, compared to 40 percent of the men.

One key difference between male and female students, the professors told me, is that men tend to be loners. The women would eagerly join study groups, which doubled as support groups, while the men went their own way.

Encouraging men to band together is the key ingredient of this Men of Merit program at Michigan’s Jackson Community College, described in this Inside Higher Education story.

The group of African American men, most of whom were either encouraged by faculty or current members to attend, holds bi-weekly meetings at which they check up on each other's progress in the classroom. The students take it upon themselves to mentor one another and tutor fellow members in subjects in which they excel. "There is a lot of camaraderie," said Anton Allen, a 40-year-old sophomore studying business administration and a founding member of Men of Merit. "If one of our members is falling or struggling, we grab that member and bring them up. There's nothing like having someone who believes in you."

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