Academic journal article Journal of College Counseling

Promoting Academic Persistence among Racial/ethnic Minority and European American Freshman and Sophomore Undergraduates: Implications for College Counselors

Academic journal article Journal of College Counseling

Promoting Academic Persistence among Racial/ethnic Minority and European American Freshman and Sophomore Undergraduates: Implications for College Counselors

Article excerpt

Factors influencing persistence decisions among 346 racial/ethnic minority and 813 European American freshman and sophomore undergraduates were explored. Gender and racial/ethnic differences were found in centrality and public regard of racial/ethnic identity. Perceptions of the university environment and self-beliefs predicted persistence decisions for everyone. Suggestions for college counselors working with students exhibiting risk factors for academic persistence are presented.

Keywords: academic persistence, racial/ethnic identity, academic self-efficacy

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Despite being a focus of attention for almost 40 years (Seidman, 2005), I college attrition among racial/ethnic minority (REM) students remains troublesome. Although the enrollment rates of these students are at an all-time high, representing 30.9% of all enrollments in 2005 (National Center for Education Statistics [NCES], 2008), 1st-year attrition rates vary from 26.3% for African Americans to 32.8% tbr Native Americans, as compared with 19.7% for European Americans. These well-documented disparities in retention have led to an exploration of factors contributing to academic persistence.

One such factor is academic stress. Researchers have shown that REM students face additional academic stressors when entering college in comparison with their European American counterparts (e.g., Phinney, Dennis, & Osorio, 2006). Often, REM students attending predominantly White universities feel marginalized (Gloria & Castellanos, 2003). Racial/ethnic identity has been linked to this distress, with students who have higher levels of racial/ ethnic identity reporting less person-environment fit (Hutz, Martin, & Beitel, 2007) and higher levels of psychological distress (Gilbert, So, Russell, & Wessel, 2006). The link between stress and mental health issues has been well documented, especially with college students (e.g., Emmons, 2007), and cultural factors have been found to be related to depressive symptoms in REM college students (Vega & Alegria, 2001). Given the overlap of psychological distress and persistence decisions, college counseling centers should consider psychosocial and cognitive factors that predict both.

Tinto (1975, 1987) explained student dropout through a psychosocial perspective that focuses on the interaction between the student and the college, whether the student integrates socially and academically into the college environment, and whether personal factors influence academic persistence. In 1993, Tinto modified this model to address better the departure rates of REM students and to include self-esteem as an influence on academic persistence. This revised model posits that background and noncognitive variables help to explain persistence decisions. One set of noncognitive variables, termed self-beliefs, has consistently been found to predict persistence decisions (Dixon Rayle, Robinson Kurpius, & Arredondo, 2005; Gloria, 1993; Gloria & Robinson Kurpius, 2001; Gloria, Robinson Kurpius, Hamilton, & Willson, 1999). In addition to self-beliefs (specifically self-esteem and self-efficacy), the current study examined racial/ethnic identity, also a noncognitive self-belief construct, as it relates to academic persistence decisions.

Defined as the global attitude one has about one's self (Rosenberg, 1965), self-esteem has been linked to persistence decisions through social and academic adjustment to college (e.g., Friedlander, Reid, Shupak, & Cribbie, 2007). Individuals with higher self-esteem assess barriers and challenges (such as adjusting to the college environment) as manageable and create strategies for coping with difficult situations (Dodgson & Wood, 1998; Lawrence, Ashford, & Dent, 2006). Research has consistently found that higher self-esteem is related to more positive persistence decisions (e.g., Dixon Rayle et al., 2005; Gloria & Robinson Kurpius, 2001). …

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