African American College Students More Often Have Other Duties Compared to Their Peers

A new survey by the Gallup Organization for the Lumina Foundation finds that more than one in three Black bachelor’s degree students in the U.S. have major life responsibilities beyond their coursework, twice the rate for all other bachelor’s degree students. These additional duties beyond their college studies may be a significant factor in the Black-White college graduation rate gap.

About 22 percent of African American college students provide care to children, friends, seniors, or other relatives. One out of every five African American college students also has a full-time job. Both of these are about double the rate for bachelor’s degree students as a whole.

Nearly half of Black bachelor’s degree students with competing responsibilities say they have considered stopping their coursework in the past six months. This well exceeds the one third of Black students without such obligations who have contemplated pausing their studies.

The report concludes that “strategies for helping students stay enrolled while fulfilling other responsibilities may require schools to develop best practices in integrating flexibility for time and location of courses. Providing comprehensive student support services has proven to be effective in helping students with external priorities stay enrolled and succeed. These may range from on-campus child care access to advising that helps students manage scheduling and resource challenges, as well as counseling services to provide strategies for coping with the stress they may experience balancing multiple priorities.”

The full report, Balancing Act: The Tradeoffs and Challenges Facing Black Students in Higher Education, may be downloaded here.

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