What Does It Take to Have a Positive Impact on Minority Students' College Retention?

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

This paper describes the Young Scholars Program (YSP), which seeks to expand the pool of African American and other underrepresented minority youth who aspire to attend college, and to help them meet entrance requirements and successfully obtain a college degree. Quarter-by-quarter data for the first two groups of YSP students entering The Ohio State University were promising. Their retention rates approximated university averages, while comparison groups showed lower levels of retention. It was concluded that the many facets of the Young Scholars Program, as well as the students' positive reputation among family members, peers, and teachers, produced strong motivation, ability, and determination to succeed.

High school graduation rates among African Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans have been increasing over the past decade. However, enrollment of these minority groups in public, baccalaureate degree granting institutions has never been proportional to their presence in the high school population, and college graduation rates continue to lag behind those of Anglos (Richardson, 1990). In 1993, the disparity in college entrance rates (including community colleges, junior colleges, and universities) for Anglo and African American high school graduates was 13%; the disparity was 8% for Anglo and Hispanic high school graduates. In 1994, the disparity in degree completion (including associate, bachelor of arts or science, and graduate or professional degrees) between Anglo and African American students was 16%; between Anglo and Hispanic students the disparity was 18% (National Educational Goals Panel, 1995).

The drop-off in the educational attainment of African Americans and Hispanics is, at times, extreme. For example, data reveal that of 100 African American children who start high school, only 86 graduate. Of 100 African American high school seniors, only 10 go on to receive a bachelor's degree. Further, from 1975 to 1990, Ph.D.s awarded to African Americans dropped slightly, from 999 to 828. African Americans garnered just 3.5% of all doctorates in 1990 (Thurgood & Weinman, 1991). At The Ohio State University, despite many innovative recruitment initiatives and support services, the graduation rates of African Americans and Hispanics have continued to be about half that of Anglo students over the past fifteen years. This pattern is common in many public universities (Sailes, 1993).

Models of student retention and persistence suggest that degree completion is a result of the interaction of three classes of factors: (1) factors that precede college enrollment, such as attendance at a college-oriented high school, parents' educational background, family's educational values and goals, the intention to attend college, clarity of career goals, and high school course work and grades; (2) factors related to the college or university, including availability of financial aid or other financial support, academic climate, availability of tutoring, student orientation of the faculty, acceptance into a degree-granting program, availability of required courses, housing and roommate arrangements, and access to a mentor and/or academic advisor; and (3) factors related to personal development, such as level of identity resolution, the ability to balance various demands (emanating from work, classes, extracurricular activities, social life, and family), degree of homesickness, feelings of alienation or social isolation, academic self-concept and academic self-efficacy, and the ability to seek out and obtain social and academic support (Stage, 1989; House, 1992; Astin, 1993; Castle, 1993; Tinto, 1993).

THE YOUNG SCHOLARS PROGRAM

The Young Scholars Program (YSP) seeks to expand the pool of African American and other underrepresented minority youth who aspire to attend college, and to help them meet entrance requirements and successfully obtain a college degree. The program focuses on public school students in the major urban areas of Ohio. …