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York planning center to attract black men

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The City University of New York was launching efforts as part of its Master Plan to recruit and retain more black men in its schools to help close the racial and gender gaps it still sees on its campuses, said Rita Rodin, a university spokeswoman.

Citywide, 37 percent of CUNY students are men and 63 percent are women, while people who identify themselves as black make up 32 percent of the student body, according to university figures.

At the four Queens campuses, the numbers vary from school to school. Queens College in Flushing has a population that is 10 percent black and 35 percent male, while at York College in Jamaica 63 percent of students are black but just 29 percent are men.

Queensborough Community College in Bayside has one of the most balanced student bodies, with 28 percent black and 42 percent male students, and at LaGuardia Community College in Long Island City, 20 percent of the students are black and 37 percent are men, according to the figures.

"Men in general are about a third of the student population," said Barbara Stone, director of institutional research at LaGuardia. "Women go to school more often than men."

The figures match a nationwide trend in which women outnumber men at college campuses, said Andrew Beveridge, a Queens College professor.

"In the world at large there are two black women to every man," he said. "When you factor this in, it could be three to one. This would be cause for alarm but not just for CUNY."

But CUNY is trying to figure out why black men in particular are not going to college and remedy that, Rodin said. Led by the Medgar Evers campus in Brooklyn, the university plans to create male empowerment and support centers at campuses, including the one at York College, said Fred Price, dean of development and public affairs at Medgar Evers. The centers are meant to research the reasons behind the trend and develop community-based solutions to pull in more male students, he said.

One of the reasons may be that black male students are not getting the same support as other students, starting in elementary schools, Price said.

"They're not coming through the pipeline from grade school to college at the same rate as other students," he said. "You also have to look at the other options they're looking at, whether it's incarceration, trying to find a job without a college education or going into the service."

The support also lags in high school, when students need to plan seriously for college and their careers, said Winston Yarde, director of admissions at Queensborough Community College.

"Students, black males in particular, do want to go to college and know they must do this, but they're not really clear on what they want to do," he said. "They really haven't received the kind of guidance they should have at high school."

They also may be reluctant to go to college because they do not see mentors who look like them, both in grade school and at the university, said Avis Hendrickson, a vice president at York College. CUNY faculty and students have long pushed for a more diverse teaching staff.

"There may be a lack of successful models in the classrooms and in colleges," she said. "They have not been embraced or pursued to come into the environment and it may be that people may not know how to reach out to them."

CUNY is hoping the male centers will help with that, Price said. The centers, including one scheduled to open at York late this year, were slated to host support programs for existing students, Hendrickson said.

"They need a support system once they are here," she said.

Queensborough has already set up academic advisement centers and tutoring programs for students, including career planning, particularly for their black male students, said Jean Pierre, dean of student affairs there.

"The students often come underprepared," he said. "We want students to know that regardless of their level of skill we will help you. We will challenge you and help you through."

The male empowerment centers will also serve as a launching point for outreach, including sending students into the community and talking with potential students, Price said.

"We also want to enlist them as ambassadors," he said. "They can go back easier than anyone else and say to their peers, 'Hey, you can go to college. Look, I'm doing it.'"

And as the borough marks the 50th anniversary of Brown vs. the Board of Education ruling Monday, which outlawed segregated schools, Hendrickson hopes that students of all ethnic and racial backgrounds will remember the fight that helped clear their way to education.

"Brown vs. the Board of Ed has done a great service for everybody - not only African-Americans and Latinos but many cultures of people," she said. "Hopefully, with the 50th anniversary, many of those cultures that have benefited would learn about the source of that opportunity for them to enter the halls of academia. But there is still work to be done."

Reach reporter Courtney Dentch by e-mail at news@timesledger.com, or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.

Updated 7:05 pm, October 10, 2011
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