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Author ORCID Identifier


Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program


Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

Kathryn A. McDermott

Second Advisor

Ryan Wells

Third Advisor

Dania Francis

Subject Categories

Africana Studies | Bilingual, Multilingual, and Multicultural Education | Education | Educational Assessment, Evaluation, and Research | Educational Leadership | Higher Education | Higher Education Administration | Other Education | Social Justice | Student Counseling and Personnel Services


Previous research trended towards a deficit-oriented approach to understanding and explaining Black male underachievement. The past education research has focused on discussing the underachievement of Black males in Higher education. Finding solutions often were prescriptive in “fixing” behaviors in Black males to improve academic achievement.

Additionally, there has been a trend towards race-neutrality in education policies, programs, and admissions criteria. And there is a lack of research on whether race-neutrality further exacerbates Black male underachievement by ignoring key race and gender targeted supports services that could improve Black male academic outcomes in higher education. While Black men have historically struggled to gain full participation in the American education system; educational opportunity programs have a long establish history of aiding historically disenfranchised groups like Black males in gaining access to higher education. Government funded opportunity programs tend not to target for race but rather use proxies for race like income.

There has not been much research on the success and academic outcomes for students who participate in educational opportunity programs. Furthermore, there is little to no research on the extent these educational opportunity programs assist Black males’ entry, retention, and completion in college. This study uses panel data collected by the New York State Education Department (NYSED) on the Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP) between 2014-2019 to assess the extent to which services provided by HEOP impact Black male academic outcomes. Additionally, this study analyzes the perspectives of Black male students that participate in HEOP to find out whether a race-neutral opportunity program can meet their racial and gendered needs.

The findings of this study indicate that race-neutral programs that use income as a proxy for race can adequately support Black male students if there are purposeful support systems and services in place. Also, Black males feel supported if there are a critical mass of Black students participating in HEOP and HEOP staff are culturally sensitive and relatable. When students who participate in HEOP have the aforementioned characteristics, they are more likely to view the program as beneficial and feel supported. Findings show that academic support provided by HEOP does not have a significant impact on the academic outcomes of Black males in comparison to non-Black men and Black females enrolled in HEOP. However, Black males did find support services more helpful when the providers of those services were of the same race. Findings also show that Black males in HEOP did not find the gender of peers and staff within HEOP to be important to feeling that their needs were met. However, the race and relatability of the HEOP staff and peers were important to feeling connected and that needs were met.


Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.