A new report on Black students in the community college system found fewer are signing up to attend two-year schools, an enrollment downturn made even sharper by the pandemic.
One Tennessee school is taking steps to change it.
Shanna Jackson, president of Nashville State Community College, said the two-year school has seen lower enrollment, particularly among Black male students. She pointed out they are working to form strategic partnerships with Metro Schools, grades K-12, as part of the ‘Better Together’ and ‘Greater Together’ programs in Clarksville to help attract Black students to the college, and are seeing results.
“For this fall, Nashville State was actually up in Black students,” Jackson said. “Overall modest, but still an increase. We saw a much more significant gain in our first-time undergraduate Black male students. We were 14% bigger, still small numbers, but we’ll take it as a win because we have more Black males now than we had in 2020.”
The report on Black students’ experiences in community college showed enrollment dropped 18% for all Black students from Fall 2019 to Fall 2021. The research, from the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, detailed multiple pressures keeping many students from completing school, including hunger and housing insecurity.
The report also found lower graduation rates among Black community college students. Jackson noted the drop has been most prominent among Black men. She added Nashville State Community College has a goal of a 30% graduation rate overall, and the school still has work to do to achieve it. The most current three-year graduation rate for all students is 19%, and for Black students, it’s 10%.
“But two years ago, when we were looking at our three-year graduation rates, Black men were six percent; White men were 24%, and Black females were nine percent,” Jackson said.
Jackson emphasized student loans are not an issue at the school, as most students take advantage of statewide grant programs, the Tennessee Promise and Tennessee Reconnect scholarships, and Pell Grants.