Pushing Toward Progress
Early Implementation Findings from a Study of the Male Student Success Initiative
National college completion rates for men of color at open- and broad-access postsecondary institutions (including community colleges) lag behind completion rates for White students and for female students of any race or ethnicity. Research points to several broad factors to explain these unequal outcomes, including precollege environments that do not sufficiently prepare men of color for college, nonacademic barriers that compete for students’ time and attention, and inadequate college campus support. Other scholarship challenges postsecondary education professionals to think critically about how discriminatory policies and practices and structural racism perpetuate this inequality nationwide.
Since the early 2000s, many colleges have tailored campus programs to provide academic and social support specific to the interests and needs of male students of color to overcome gaps in success rates. The Male Student Success Initiative (MSSI) at the Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC) in Maryland is one such program, and MDRC is evaluating it through the Men of Color College Achievement (MoCCA) Project. MSSI’s program model includes an ambitious set of services to support male students of color, including a culturally contextualized first-year student success course, assigned mentors (who are also men of color), connections with student support services on campus, leadership and professional development opportunities, and a focus on community building through activities that reflect racial and ethnic identities. While the student success course is one semester, the MSSI program is intended to keep students engaged beyond their first semester at CCBC.
This report presents findings on how the MSSI program was implemented in 2019 — the first year of the MoCCA study. Important insights from this early period of program implementation are:
- The resources supporting the program in 2019 were limited and its leadership had little available time and capacity for effective oversight.
- The MSSI program was not yet implemented fully, a common characteristic of newly formed or redesigned programs. Program components were implemented inconsistently and student attendance in program activities was lower than expected.
- There were promising indications of program improvements in 2019. For example, the college increased support for MSSI over time, and program staff members made notable efforts to strengthen the delivery of its components.
The time frame covered by this report predates the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and the latest high-profile examples of racial injustice in this country, so their specific effects on the college and the MSSI program are not described here. However, CCBC was deeply affected by the pandemic, like most other colleges nationwide. The pandemic will likely exacerbate equity gaps for male students of color given its disproportionate effect on communities of color nationwide. At the same time, CCBC has reoriented its framework for equity and inclusion considering the struggle to address the ongoing marginalization of communities of color on a national scale. Those events and their impact on MSSI and the students participating in the study will be addressed in future reports.