Academic journal article College Student Journal

Social and Academic Integration and College Success: Similarities and Differences as a Function of Ethnicity and Family Educational Background

Academic journal article College Student Journal

Social and Academic Integration and College Success: Similarities and Differences as a Function of Ethnicity and Family Educational Background

Article excerpt

Analyses of survey data collected from 150 college students identified relationships among five indices of academic and social integration (academic confidence, social confidence, perception of oneself as a leader among one's peers, a positive rapport with one's teachers, and an internal locus of control) and success and mastery orientation in that environment (as indexed by GPA, persistence and task-involvement and an incremental view of intelligence). Significant differences among Asian-American, Hispanic and White students emerged for most of the student variables. Correlational analyses revealed strong linkages between academic and social integration and student outcomes across ethnic groups and for first-and later-generation college students. Discussion focuses on implications for practice and questions for future research.

The number of students enrolling in American colleges is steadily increasing, and the confidence level of entering Freshmen is at an all-time high. Yet the proportion of students who actually graduate from college is declining, especially among minority students (Justiz, 1994; Pascarella and Terenzini, 1991; Sax, Astin, Korn and Mahoney, 1996; Suzuki, 1994; Tinto, 1993 US. Department of Education, 1995a, 1995b). Despite an increase in the number and type of student support services available on two- and four-year college campuses, an increasing segment of the college population appears to be under-prepared or inappropriately motivated.

Predictors of college success. By the end of the 1980's, researchers had compiled a fairly clear picture of the formulas of success for "traditional" college students, that is 18-22 year old non-minority students from middle-class backgrounds whose parents had attended college. This formula included consideration of the adequacy of students' academic preparation, the appropriateness of their educational expectations and career goals, the "anticipatory socialization" (Weidman, 1989) they had received from parents, peers and others prior to entering college, and their assimilation into their new milieu upon matriculation. (See, for example, Pascarella and Terenzini's 1991 encyclopedic volume.) Two consistent predictors of retention and success were the degree to which students become academically and socially integrated into their environment. Several researchers have reported systematic cognitive and personal advantages for students who have frequent and informal contact with instructors and with peers, and who become engaged in intellectual and social pursuits on campus early in their college careers (Milem, 1998; Pascarella, 1985; Pascarella and Terenzini, 1979, 1980; Terenzini and Wright, 1987a, 1987b, 1987b; Tinto, 1975).

The college population of today, however, resembles less and less the students who participated in these foundational studies. The changing demographics are summarized in the 1995 and 1996 Chronicle of Higher Education: Almanac Issue. The decade from 1984 to 1994 saw a 5.1% increase in the number of White undergraduates matriculating at American college and universities, but an increase of 61% in the minority population. By the mid-1990's, nearly half (40%) of college undergraduates were 25 years of age or older, nearly half (43%) were enrolled only part-time, and nearly half (46%) were employed. Relatively little is known (though much is assumed) about the strengths, weaknesses and academic achievement motivations of this "new" college population. Might their distinctive characteristics have significant bearing on the challenge of increasing student retention and success? More recently, scholars have called into question the universality of some of the earlier patterns and urged that more research be conducted so as to better understand the dynamics at play among the less "traditional" and more diverse populations now making their way to and through college (Astin, 1998; Kraemer, 1997; Pascarella and Terenzini, 1998; Rendon, 1994; Stage, 1993; Tierney, 1992). …

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