Academic journal article College Student Journal

African American and Latina(o) Community College Students' Social Capital and Student Success

Academic journal article College Student Journal

African American and Latina(o) Community College Students' Social Capital and Student Success

Article excerpt

Using a framework of social and cultural capital, this study examined successful African American and Latina/o community college students. Based on focus group interviews with twenty two African American and Latina/o undergraduates at an urban community college, the authors reveal how social and cultural capital gained from students' relationships and interactions with friends, family, faculty members, student affairs staff and college support services impacted their successful college outcomes. In general, students identified social capital resources in the form of faculty relationships, supportive family, and campus engagement as sources of support for their college success. In addition, students showed personal determination to succeed against all odds displaying important aspirational capital as well. This research illustrates the importance of countering idea that first-time, full-time, four-year college attendance is the only path to college success, and the importance of social capital in helping underrepresented groups of students navigate the college completion process.

Introduction

The college completion agenda has shifted the national discussion in higher education from access to success (Sutherland, 2011). The Commission on Access, Admissions and Success in Higher Education formed by the College Board, was charged with assessing current pathways to higher education, and identifying enrollment and completion opportunities that institutions could implement to increase graduation outcomes for more students (College Board, 2011). The goal is to increase the number of American adults who hold a college degree or certificate to at least 55 percent by 2025 (College Board, 2011). The ultimate goal is to have an educated adult population that can fill the jobs of the future, and help the country become economically strong (Sutherland, 2011).

Community colleges can play an important role in achieving our nation's education goals (Sutherland, 2011). Almost half of all students of color and forty percent of under resourced students are enrolled in community colleges (Mullin, 2012). However, most of the higher education retention and persistence literature focuses on the negative impact of attending a community college. For example, college outcomes research points out that under fifty percent of community college students whose goal is to complete a degree or other type of credential, actually graduate within six years after their initial enrollment. (Center for Community College Student Engagement, 2012). Additionally, the number of students attending community colleges who complete a degree within three years has remained at about one third of those who start college for over a decade. (U. S. Department of Education, 2011).

Students of color are entering community colleges at high rates, but only one-fourth of them transfer to a four-year institution (Provitera-McGlynn, 2005). Previous research indicated that, students of color who attend a baccalaureate degree granting institution directly from high school are much more likely to graduate than their peers who attend community colleges (Arbona & Nora, 2007). However, a more recent study indicated that the majority of community college transfer students do complete their degrees within six years of transferring to baccalaureate degree-granting institutions (Shapiro & Dundar, 2013). In addition, there are many benefits to attending a community college in terms of selection of programs, career and academic pathways, and increased earning potential (Belfield & Bailey, 2011). The latter is especially true for students of color, women, and immigrants (Belfield & Bailey, 2011). Community college attendance also benefit the community in terms of partnerships with employers, retaining of displaced workers, higher retention rates at baccalaureate institutions, lower crime rates, and lower utilization of public assistance (Belfield & Bailey, 2011). …

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