Magazine article Multicultural Education

Promoting Native American College Student Recruitment & Retention in Higher Education

Magazine article Multicultural Education

Promoting Native American College Student Recruitment & Retention in Higher Education

Article excerpt

Introduction

This is the third report of a longitudinal project to improve recruiting and retention of Native American students at a large open-enrollment teaching university in the intermountain West where such students are greatly underrepresented. In the first study (Mosholder, et. al, 2013a), grounded theory was employed to create and evaluate a survey used to generate Native American student perceptions and experiences as they related to the key elements affecting recruitment and retention.

In that survey emergent themes were used to generate focus group questions. Two focus groups were conducted. A report of that study detailed the negative perceptions found by these methods that the Native American students at the university held about the level of academic support that they were receiving and about their feelings of isolation at school. The needs identified served as a basis for creating programs, curricula, and events that were culturally responsive and reflective of divergent viewpoints and were funded by a National Science Foundation grant.

In a follow up study (Mosholder, et al., 2013b) the researchers duplicated methods used during the prior year. They found an improvement in the perceptions of Native students towards the institution. In contrast to the group in the previous study, almost all now felt that a college education was important and supported by their parents and that they fit in at the university. In the year between the first and second studies, enrollment and retention of Native students increased, by 20% and 15%, respectively.

These two earlier studies suggested that several factors were important in increasing the rate of retention of Native American students at a large, open enrollment, teaching focused university in the intermountain west. These include: (1) mentoring of Native American students by other Native Americans; (2) a perception by Native American students that they, their traditions, values, and communities were valued and respected; (3) adequate communication to facilitate awareness that the first two factors were in place; (4) adequate preparation or remediation to enable academic success at the post-secondary level; and (5) sufficient resources to pay for school and living expenses

In our report on this second study, the researchers noted a number of limitations. The data were not disaggregated by gender, age, marital or parental status, or by tribal, nation, or other indigenous group. Further, since the surveys were conducted by intercept, not all Native American students had an equal chance to respond. Since qualitative methods were used, there remained a need for statistically significant evidence of the correlates or causes of recruitment and retention trends and to evaluate other interventions for their impact.

The researchers also noted a number of implications for future research. Students in the previous study had identified a number of issues about Native American students that the researchers wanted to know more about in terms of their effects on recruiting and retention. These included expressed desires for additional activities, programming, and courses, for external community involvement, for transitional and outreach programs, and for dedicated space. There were unresolved issues about how best to communicate with Native students and to establish effective mentoring and advising relationships.

Current theoretical models of persistence often assume a deficit-based lens and assume students must conform to institutional norms (Harper, 2010; Hurtado & Carter, 1997; Rendon, Jalomo & Nora, 2000; Tierney, 1992). In extending the results of our previous two studies and to develop the survey that we used for the current study, we employed an assets-based approach. We wanted to understand what contributes to Native American student success in a very Eurocentric environment and what role an institution could play in facilitating that success. …

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