Most African American Males Lose Their HOPE Scholarships Due to a Lack of Academic Success

Charles E. Menifield, a professor at the Truman School of Public Affairs at the University of Missouri at Columbia, has conducted a study of HOPE scholarship students in Tennessee. The HOPE scholarships, are funded by the state lottery. Students who receive the awards must maintain a certain grade point average in order to continue to receive the scholarship past their freshman year.

Menifield’s study, published in the Journal of Education Finance, found that African American males are the most likely group to lose their HOPE scholarships due to failure to maintain academic standards. His research on over 33,000 HOPE recipients determined that over the course of a four-year college career, more than 50 percent of African American male students lost their scholarships.

“Race turns out to be one of the best predictors of scholarship retention rates,” Menifield said. “This research strongly suggests that colleges and universities that desire to maintain diversity should at minimum target minority students, particularly African-American males, and determine how best to improve academic success.”

Professor Menifeld added, “If state and higher education institutions want to maintain higher levels of retention and a diverse student body, they should do much more than simply provide scholarship funding. On the contrary, they should provide institutional support by creating a mechanism that will positively affect student achievement. Ultimately, the responsibility lies with the student, but there are many things that universities can do to promote higher retention rates.”

Dr. Menifield recently joined the faculty at the University of Missouri. For the past nine years, he taught at the University of Memphis. Professor Menifield holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Mississippi State University. He earned a Ph.D. in political science at the University of Missouri.

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  1. Even if one agrees with the ‘retention support’ argument that Dr. Menifield (and many,many others) espouses, ultimately, the actual percentage of retention change using that strategy is what needs to be measured. What measurable “change” does change of strategy produce? There is not yet a consistent enough set of approaches/metrics to test his assertion.
    Realistically, the success rate of such approaches can be expected to remain fairly low, given that what he and others propose is the academic analogy of putting a hoopdie on a NASCAR track mid-race. It doesn’t matter how much high-octane fuel or how many racing tires are put on it, the hoopdie will never truly get up to speed.
    I recently read an observation that some of the nation’s governors base their projected prison needs on the results of the assessment of reading levels of males around the 3rd and 4th grades. Barring unaddressed learning disabilities (how many ADDs and dyslectic kids can we realistically factor in?), if a kid isn’t up to grade-level reading at age 9 or 10, passing him from grade to grade after that is a cruel joke — not a ‘gift’ of social promotion. Successful academic intervention at “grade 14”, while not impossible, seems to me to be way too little way too late.

  2. As a very senior citizen, with some reasonable record in the academic world, I personally have to testify to a bad undergraduate performance and a middling graduate performance.

    The report that Menifield presents is deeply discouraging. But his conclusion seems reasonable. “Common Sense Rules” is not wholly wrong either. But I am averse to his (or her?) implicit conclusion which seems to be “forget it.” I think it is wrong to attack Menifield on metrics. My preferred approach is stragegic: choose as a matter of policy to raise the academic competence level of African young men to the academic competence level of all young men within one decade.

  3. well, obviously it’s a preparation issue. until we see a gross, across-the-board reform in k-12 curriculum (both quality AND standards), black and poor kids will continue to be ill-prepared for college. the school-to-prison pipeline is alive and well. what are we gonna do about it?

  4. this is a bunch of baloney. this article does not lay blame on the student. yes I read the entire article but one sentence that says it’s the students responsibility which is a CYA.. but then the thesis itself takes the bulk of the blame off the student. when actually the article should be centered around personal responsibility and one sentence about retention . the good doctor’s research is totally flawed

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