Psychological Barriers Associated with Matriculation of African American Students in Predominantly White Institutions

By Lett, Debra F.; Wright, James V. | Journal of Instructional Psychology, September 2003 | Go to article overview

Psychological Barriers Associated with Matriculation of African American Students in Predominantly White Institutions


Lett, Debra F., Wright, James V., Journal of Instructional Psychology


An institution is responsible for the healthy development and achievement of its student body regardless of race or ethnicity. When students are accepted into an institution of higher education, the responsibility lies with the university to envelope, develop and graduate students, who are psychologically and academically sound, and in so doing, provide an atmosphere of inclusion and acceptance. Since the elimination of "dejure segregation", predominanly white institutions are responsible for educating a vast majority of minority students, particularly students of African American heritage. Healthy student development and successful matriculation must be evident in an institution's mission with evidence of multicultural initiatives. An institution must explore, refine and/or develop successful models of student development which are both cognitively and psychosocially adept and embrace such, in order to be productive and successful in its efforts to retain and graduate students of color minimizing and destroying barriers in the process. Studies indicate that African American students often shared many feelings of isolation, non-acceptance. and rejection in predominantly white institutions. The primary reasons supporting these feelings, are in many cases, the offices of Student Affairs lacking diversity, in terms of Administrators, Counselors and mentors/role models. In socialistic cultures, such as that of African Americans, it is important to be sensitive to those needs of African American Students. In order to overcome these concerns, Universities must focus on both the cognitive and psychosocial needs of these students. African American students are faced with barriers such as hidden racism. Alienation, unintentional acts of discrimination, intentional discrimination, forms of intimidation and problems associated with acquiring adequate financial aid. The experience of college should be one of inclusiveness and embracement, to enhance the total higher educational experience.

Studies indicate that African American students often feel isolated and alienated in predominantly White institutions (PWIs) and do not feel included in the college environment and community. As a result of these feelings African American students may have problems matriculating successfully. These findings suggest that African American students need support, inclusion and acceptance in order to fit in the mainstream college environment. African American students can excel in an environment, which promotes inclusion and acceptance, thus promoting an atmosphere of acceptance, which would be conducive to learning. When African American students are able to be a part of an institution, which promotes institutional warmness, they achieve at higher levels and successfully matriculate through their programs of study (Swchwitzer. Griffin, Ancis, & Thomas 1999).

The purpose of this paper is to explore the role of Student Affairs in the plethora of problems faced by minority students with particular emphasis on African American students. Allen, W. 1992: Hurtado, S. 1992; Townsend, L.1994 (as cited in Taylor, E. & Olswang, S. 1997) stated, " The elimination of de-jure segregation in higher education has resulted in a surge of minority enrollment in PWIs" (p.2). It is the writer's contention that once these students are enrolled in the university, it is the responsibility of the university to promote and maintain an environment to promote areas of development both cognitively and psychosocially. The writer will explore studies and analyze findings, which have been successful to this endeavor. Questions posed: 1). Does Student Affairs provide minority students with support needed for successful matriculation for program requirements? 2). Do PWIs embrace minority students relative to ethnicity?

Review Of Literature

Psychological Support Needs Of African American Students

Racism defined by Katz 1989 (as Reynolds & Pope 1994) as, "both prejudice against people of color and the political, social, and economic power to reinforce that prejudice. …

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