Leadership Strategies: Retaining African American Male Students at a Historically Black Institution

Julian Pirtle, Tennessee State University


African American male enrollment in degree-granting postsecondary institutions saw a small increase between 2010 and 2019, rising nine percent over that period. However, their representation only reached eight percent of total undergraduate students by fall 2019, down slightly from nine percent in 2010. Only 37% of African American men who started bachelor's programs in 2010 completed them within six years, compared to 63% of their Caucasian male peers. Historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) enrolled a disproportionately high 17% of African American men versus the national average of eight percent. Research showed these men had significantly lower retention and graduation rates than students from other racial/ethnic backgrounds. At HBCUs specifically, only 38% of African American male students graduated within six years, versus the national average of 42%. While some progress was made in access over the past decade, this study sought to provide deeper insight into the issue using a triangulation research method addressing it from three perspectives: a national literature review, an in-depth state study, and a focus group of African American men from an HBCU. The overall findings from all three noted significant challenges that impeded retention, such as poor college preparation, financial constraints, stereotypes, lack of role models, and insufficient institutional support services directly related to African American males. The study provided leadership strategies for addressing retention through mentoring programs, community outreach, academic support, and scholarships.

Subject Area

Higher Education Administration|Education|African American Studies

Recommended Citation

Julian Pirtle, "Leadership Strategies: Retaining African American Male Students at a Historically Black Institution" (2023). ETD Collection for Tennessee State University. Paper AAI30693966.