More Black Men in Jail Than in College? Wrong

Show Me the Numbers: A 13-year-old report using questionable data gave rise to an enduring myth.

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In September 2012, in response to the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation's screening of the film Hoodwinked, directed by Janks Morton, JPI issued a press release titled, "JPI Stands by Data in 2002 on Education and Incarceration." However, if one examines the IPEDS data from 2001 to 2011, it is clear that many colleges and universities were not reporting JPI's data 10 years ago.

In 2011, 4,503 colleges and universities across the United States reported having at least one black male student. In 2001, only 2,734 colleges and universities reported having at least one black male student, with more than 1,000 not reporting any data at all. When perusing the IPEDS list of colleges with significant black male populations today but none reported in 2001, I noticed several historically black colleges and universities, including Bowie State University, and my own alma mater, Temple University. Ironically, I was enrolled at Temple as a doctoral candidate in 2001.

As a researcher who uses large data sets, I understand the inherent margin of error associated with such analysis. However, I do think that JPI shows arrogance and imprudence when it "stands by" its original findings today. The increase in black male college enrollment over the past 10 years is due to three primary factors: 1. IPEDS more precisely tracking enrollment (artificial gains), 2. social advancements (authentic gains) and 3. the rise of community and for-profit colleges (authentic gains).

Black male on Twitter: Son, there are more black men in Trenton State Prison than in every college in NJ [New Jersey]. This is a sad fact of the struggle. @toldson is wrong.

@toldson: NJ has 63 colleges that enroll 25,473 total black males. Essex CC [Community College] has most. The total (all race) prison population in NJ is 24,590.

Black male on Twitter: @toldson I suppose if we count 2 year institutes perhaps the numbers get better, but when I attend a class at Rutgers with 275, no way I should be of 1.

@toldson: This is the way. Rutgers has a student body of 52,471 and only 1,261 black males. My numbers aren't always pretty, but they're real.

Technology, costs, demographic shifts and emerging occupational requirements are creating fundamental changes in the higher-education landscape. In 2001 four HBCUs were among the top 10 for enrolling black males. In 2011 no HBCUs were in the top 10, and only one (Florida A&M University) was in the top 10.

The top 10 colleges for enrolling black males consist of three for-profit colleges, four community colleges and three public four-year institutions. The University of Phoenix online campus reported 847 black male students in 2001 and 21,802 in 2011, making it the nation's top enroller of black male students. Second is Ashford University, which reported 23 black males in 2001 and 15,081 in 2011. 

Importantly, black male representation in higher education is proportional to black male representation in the adult population. However, lack of adequate guidance and academic rigor in high schools has resulted in black males being underrepresented at competitive universities like Rutgers and overrepresented at community colleges and online universities.