Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

Determining the College Destination of African American High School Seniors: Does College Athletic Reputation Matter?

Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

Determining the College Destination of African American High School Seniors: Does College Athletic Reputation Matter?

Article excerpt

This study extends research on college choice by examining what African American students say about the importance of the college's athletic reputation when choosing which school to attend. The authors first examine, among African American students attending four-year colleges or universities, the overall distribution of self-reported factors that, as high school seniors, shaped the selection of their first choice institutions. Then factor analysis was conducted to examine the structure of relations among the diverse factors shaping student preferences and their contribution to understanding variation in the college choice process among African Americans. Finally, logistic regression analyses were undertaken to understand the relationship of athletic reputation with other relevant college selection and access factors. The descriptive results show that roughly one out of every three African American respondents report that a school's athletic reputation is at least a somewhat important consideration in determining their college choice. The factor analysis revealed four common factors-Academic/Career, Economic/Practical, Demographic, and Social. Academic/Career issues represented the strongest factor, with Social considerations ranked somewhat lower in importance. A college's athletic reputation had the highest loading on the Social factor across analysis groups.

INTRODUCTION

Where students attend college can be just as important as their decision to seek postsecondary education (Astin, 1965). Both theory and research on college choice has suggested that where students matriculate is a function of both supply and demand processes involving interrelated individual and institutional decision-making processes (Astin, 1965; Choy & Ottinger, 1998; Hossler & Gallagher, 1987). The individual decision occurs first as students identify colleges or universities that meet their particular needs. Next, the institutional decision occurs when college admissions officers accept or reject applicants based on criteria-including academic credentials, needs and goals of their college, and the size and quality of their applicant pool. While both the supply and demand sides of this process are important, most research in this area focuses primarily on supply-side processes in the college choice process-student decision-making.

Four general factors have been identified related to students' college choice: (a) factors internal to the institution (e.g., academic reputation and prestige); (b) factors external to the institution (e.g., location and proximity to student' home); (c) human influences (i.e., relatives, friends, counselors); and (d) individual factors (personal and family finances) according to Raley's (1972) study. More specifically, research has pointed to considerations such as proximity to home (Bowers & Pugh, 1973; Corey, 1936; Erdman, 1983; Holland & Richards, 1965; Reeves, 1932), cost (Bowers & Pugh, 1973; Reinhardt, 1938), as well as campus social life (Bowers & Pugh, 1973) as major college selection factors. Erdman (1983) found that perceived reputation, location, and size are far more important than other factors examined, including cost. Bowers and Pugh (1973) also point out that students and their parents emphasize different factors in the selection process: Parents emphasize financial factors, proximity, and academic reputation, while students emphasize social and cultural factors.

Research also shows that students differ among themselves in the relative importance they assign to particular selection factors based on: race-ethnicity (Lisack, 1978; McDonough & Antonio, 1998); gender (Hansen & Litten, 1982; Holland, 1958; Stordahl, 1970); academic rank (Stordahl, 1970); and socioeconomic status (SES; Hearn, 1984; Mossier, Braxton, & Coopersmith, 1989; Kelpe Kern, 2000; Munday, 1976). In general, research over several decades, suggests that students' college choice decisions are significantly shaped by information about, and perceptions of, colleges' academic programs, tuition, costs, availability of financial aid, general academic reputation, proximity to home, size, and social atmosphere (Braxton, 1990; Chapman & Jackson, 1987; Comfort, 1925; Hossler, Schmit & Vesper, 1999; Keller & McKewon, 1984; Kinzie, Palmer, Hayek, Hossler, Jacob, & Cummings, 2004). …

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