Date of Award

1998

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education

School

School of Education

Program

Higher Education Administration EdD

First Advisor

David S. Penner

Second Advisor

William H. Green

Third Advisor

Elsie P. Jackson

Abstract

Problem. Attrition rates of minority students in general and African American students in particular have remained high in postsecondary education, particularly at community colleges. To gain information that is most useful for implementing policies and actions that will increase the retention and achievement of minority students, Tinto has maintained that colleges should not rely solely on systems-wide research, but should study their own students.

Method. This case study used Tinto’s longitudinal model of institutional departure to investigate the experiences of six African American students at a rural community college in southwestern Michigan. Analysis of the data from a series of semi-structured interviews revealed a variety of experiences that assisted or hindered the academic and social integration o f students at the institution.

Findings. Students identified the small number of African American students, the lack of minority faculty and staff, and the absence of courses in African American studies as negative experiences, and the quality of teaching and personal attention on the part of faculty and staff as positive experiences in their time at the college. Five themes run through the experiences of the students in this study:

1. Colleges need enough African American students to support at least some social activities and to provide a sense of belonging.

2) Students sometimes sense a lack of cultural understanding on the part of students, staff, and faculty.

3) Minority students are themselves diverse.

4) Students are aware of sterotypes and their own internal dissonance regarding ethnicity issues.

5) Students prefer classes that provide active learning and personal involvement.

Recommendations include adding more culturally relevant materials to the curricula and recognizing the primacy of the classroom as a source of both academic and social interactions for students at commuter colleges.

Subject Area

African American college students--Michigan.

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