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Lifting As We Climb: Honoring Heritage to Shape Futures

Updated: Feb 20

February 19, 2024 | Black History Month Edition


Thomas Fuller and Charlotte Brown hold significant importance in the history of black students and educators due to their pioneering achievements in higher education. Their accomplishments represent a pivotal moment in the struggle for educational equity and opportunity for African Americans in the black community. 


As it has been well documented, during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Black Americans faced systematic barriers to accessing higher education, including segregation, discrimination, and limited resources, and in many aspects, birthed Plessy v Ferguson. Despite these challenges, Thomas Fuller and Charlotte Brown defied the odds, became college graduates, and earned their four-year degrees. 


Fast forward to the 21st century, thanks to Brown v. Board of Education, where it appeared that policymakers have provided better equitable resources to families toward unlocking postsecondary attainment for students and families, specifically access, and funding in some respects, it seems that the needle for college access and success has been inconsistent for black families in Detroit in comparison to other ethical counterparts. 


Please…give me a second…hear me out…


According to data provided by The Institute for College Access and Success (TICAS), which was retrieved from the United States Census Bureau, graduates who have earned their four-year degree and are from Detroit, earn significantly less money than their white and Hispanic counterparts. For example, the average salary for a college graduate from Detroit is $32,498 in comparison to the average statewide of Michigan is $59,234. Let's take this a step further. The average salary for an African American college graduate (four-year degree) from Detroit is $31,034, the Hispanic population is $36,367, and the statewide average is $36,561. One more data point, if you are white and a college graduate of Detroit, you will earn $42,104 (Michigan statewide average: $63,594) directly out of college which is $11,070 more than African Americans and about $5,737 more than the Hispanic population. 


Based on this information, the question for black students and families is, if you are considering postsecondary attainment, specifically a four-year degree, why should you spend a lot of time and money earning a college degree if you know you will make significantly less money than their white and Hispanic counterparts after graduation? The answer... you will potentially have more access to more resources to develop throughout your academic journey to earn and gain a higher salary, versus the alternative. 


By honoring our heritage, lifting as we climb to help shape Detroit's postsecondary attainment has been the Detroit College Access Network (DCAN) staple. Through all the challenges, DCAN continues its effort to expose professionals, counselors, students, and families by ensuring all resources and supports, wraparound services, and funding opportunities are maximized to model a better future. After all, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer recently proposed an 81.7 billion budget, of which 1.9 billion is heavily driven on education access for 2025. One would say that this is the perfect time to be a student on any academic level (K-20). 


Historically, the black community has been systematically oppressed, and we can understand why students and families can have doubts about postsecondary attainment. We stand on the shoulders of black education pioneers who were from an era where Black Americans were not allowed, and who were degraded in the worst possible way. These relentless people created a path for other black Americans to reap the benefits they fought to earn. Although there are still equitable disparities, let me reiterate to professionals and educators, that their strength should give us hope, and if your students are having any doubts about earning a credential or a degree and where it could take them, please remind them that our black ancestors who came before us sacrificed their lives to ensure we have the opportunities that we have today. 


Thank you for your time and energy! 


Many blessings, 


Dr. Ashley Terry

Deputy Director, DCAN

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