Academic journal article Community College Review

Community College Mentoring: Minority Student Perception

Academic journal article Community College Review

Community College Mentoring: Minority Student Perception

Article excerpt

The ethnic and cultural landscape of the American community college is becoming increasingly diverse. The U. S. Census Bureau reported that 42.3% of African Americans in higher education are in the community college system, along with 50% of the Native American and 55.6% of Hispanic enrollment (NCES, 1999). Despite these changes, these populations of students may be confronted with many issues that are detrimental to their retention and success, such as lower levels of academic preparation in high school, lower socioeconomic status, and greater alienation in these institutions (Tinto, 1975; Astin, 1982; Jalomo, 2000). All of these factors contribute significantly to their high dropout rates and poor academic achievement. The success of these students depends, in many cases, on their integration into the college environment. One of the more common efforts at community colleges to achieve such integration is through the mentoring program.

The mentoring process has been perceived traditionally as a model for apprenticeships in graduate education, but it is now increasingly identified as a retention strategy for undergraduate education (Jacobi, 1991). This strategy has been demonstrated through both formal and informal methods. Formal mentoring programs have provided the most significant increase in enrollment and retention of minority students, as well as increased their overall satisfaction with their educational experience (James, 1991). Mentoring programs in these formal settings have focused traditionally on work-based learning as opposed to the career development and fulfillment of the psychosocial needs of the students (Ensher, 1997; Stromei, 1998). This process affords students opportunities to create a bond with the institution through programs that facilitate academic and social integration. However, for many minority students in the community college, the time, energy, and ability necessary to participate in such well-designed programs are limited due to the many responsibilities and barriers that put them at risk, such as family, work, lack of support, and lack of transportation (Beatty-Guenther, 1994). Thus, institutions have to provide alternatives to meet the challenges of these students' complex lives.

Some institutions have developed alternative programs that assist minority students who have conflicts in connecting with mentors in order to achieve the career-related and psychosocial guidance needed to survive and be successful in college. Stromei (2000) emphasizes how the Arranged Mentor for Instructional Guidance and organizational Support (AMIGOS[TM]) program, which is currently used by many organizations and educational institutions nationwide, has been successful in matching mentors and proteges based on personality types. The AMIGOS[TM] model highlighted the necessity of the student working with the mentor during the student's transition into the institution by participating in problem-solving activities, training sessions, and social activities. Another successful program at Prince George's Community College focuses on establishing and maintaining constructive relationships with students who are African American, Hispanic, Native American, and Asian (James, 1991). The mentors for the program are full-time and part-time faculty, staff, and administrators who are trained to provide supportive classroom environments and proper support services to these students. The ultimate success of any of these types of programs lies in the ability of community colleges to assist the student in dealing with the everyday challenges faced by minority students.

Considering that most of the research regarding mentoring focuses on specific programs (James, 1991; Beatty-Guenther, 1994; Stromei, 2000), it is important to assess the effectiveness of the various levels of mentoring for minority students. These studies focus on the effect and perceptions of specific programs on the educational experiences of these students. …

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