Black College Graduates Face Bumpy Road

DeWayne Wickham, USA Today, May 11, 2010

In his first commencement speech as president to a black college, President Obama talked about the importance of education to graduates of Hampton University, a school that was founded in the wake of the Civil War just a short distance from where the first slave ship landed on these shores 249 years earlier.

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{snip} When it comes to educating African Americans, schools such as Hampton do the heavy lifting. While they graduate nearly 25% of blacks who earn undergraduate degrees, the nation’s 105 historically black colleges and universities have produced the lion’s share of black professionals. More than half of the students who get their undergraduate degrees at these schools go on to attend a graduate or professional school, according to the United Negro College Fund.

But the ugly truth is that the road to success that the degree they’ve earned was supposed to open up is littered with potholes that their education alone cannot overcome. This year, blacks who have earned a bachelor’s degree and higher have a higher unemployment rate than whites who have only obtained a two-year college degree. And blacks with college degrees earn substantially less than white college graduates.

In 2008, the mean annual income of blacks with a four-year degree was more than $13,000 less than that of whites with the same level of education. And blacks who had a master’s earned about $1,500 a year less than whites with a bachelor’s degree.

Obama might have had some of this in mind when he told Hampton’s graduates the education they received has had the effect of opening their minds to the broader world beyond their campus and then added: “But now that your minds have been opened, it’s up to you to keep them that way. And it will be up to you to open minds that remain closed.”

It is those closed minds, I suspect, that are largely responsible for the potholes that ratchet up the unemployment rate of black college graduates and keep down their earnings. {snip}

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One excellent opportunity for advancement is the University of Phoenix.

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