Taskforce created to increase college graduation rates for Black males in Tennessee

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Posted at 3:54 PM, May 15, 2021

NASHVILLE, Tenn (WTVF) — A man is on a mission to make sure more Black males graduate from college in Tennessee.

Darrell Freeman says the numbers are falling behind from years before and he wants to help increase the rates in and around the state.

"As a private citizen as an entrepreneur, as a businessman, this is where I want to make a difference," Freeman said.

Freeman has accomplished a lot of things.

"I'm an entrepreneur, philanthropist, pilot, father of four, happily married to the same woman for almost 30 years," he said.

His hard work has paid off making him a multimillionaire. Freeman says he's the first in his family to graduate college. His parents dropped out of high school in the 1950s.

He credits his success to his education.

The Middle Tennessee State University alum went from walking the halls as a student to sitting on the board of regents.

It was there when he says his new passion to close the gaps in the post-secondary attainment rates for Black males across the state became his new goal.

"I took an idea to help black males to the Tennessee Higher Education Commission and they loved it," Freeman said.

Led by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, the Black Male Success Initiative came to life.

According to THEC, the Initiative is designed to identify, and implement best practices and resources to support Black males across the state.

"The number of African-American males who go into our colleges and universities has gone from 13,502 to 11,491 from 2015 to the fall of 2020," said Freeman.

Data from THEC says the post-secondary graduation rates for Black males in the state of Tennessee are astonishingly low compared to counterparts across the state.

The six-year graduation rates for Black males, 26%, were 20-22 percentage points lower than the average six-year overall graduation rate, 47%, at our public universities and community colleges. Additionally, the statewide fall-fall retention rates for Black males, 57%, are roughly 11-13 percentage points lower compared to the rates for all students, 69%, at the same institutions.

"The numbers are very discouraging, and most people don’t know about the numbers," said Freeman.

However, Freeman says there is hope.

THEC, Freeman and the other task force members are so far looking at five actions to help more Black males graduate from college.

  1. Select a statewide network of passionate practitioners committed to the success of Black males in the state of Tennessee.
  2. Provide convenings and trainings with national experts to support the understanding of best practices for Black male success.
  3. Develop a statewide strategic plan to include benchmarks to aid in the success of Black males.
  4. Create potential partnerships with other state and community agencies to aid in the resources and support for Black males.
  5. Explore potential developments for initiatives on campuses such as summer bridge programs, micro/completion grants, and/or success coaches centered around the success of Black males.