THE LAST WORD: Retention Depends on New Models of Student Development

By Bourne-Bowie, Khandi | Black Issues in Higher Education, March 30, 2000 | Go to article overview

THE LAST WORD: Retention Depends on New Models of Student Development


Bourne-Bowie, Khandi, Black Issues in Higher Education


THE LAST WORD: Retention depends on new models of student development

In the last decade, there has been a steady increase in the overall enrollment of Black students in higher education. And while enrollment at historically Black colleges in the United States experienced a dramatic increase during this time, the majority of African-heritage students currently attending college are found at predominantly White institutions.

While increased enrollment should be greeted as good news, retention literature indicates an alarming decrease in the persistence and graduation rates of African-heritage students at historically non-Black campuses. Only one-third to one-half of African-heritage students who enroll at traditionally White schools leave with degrees.

African-heritage students with strong academic backgrounds drop out at rates higher than those of their less-prepared European-heritage counterparts. Even when criteria for admission remain constant, African-heritage students still drop out in more significant numbers.

This suggests that academic preparedness, although significant, does not guarantee that African-heritage students will persist until graduation. We are left then, to explain these disproportionate admission and retention rates.

Much research has been done on "minority" student retention and many factors have been found to affect students' attrition rates. Research grounded in the experience of thousands of African-heritage students has shown that persistence and academic success have as much to do with social interactions and social adjustment in the college setting as do variables such as socioeconomic background and academic preparedness. One significant factor affecting adjustment and interactions within campus environments centers on the interpersonal elements of college life.

The Pan-Africanist educator and social scientist W.E.B. DuBois prophesied that "the problem of the twentieth century would be the problem of the color line." In 1968, the Kerner Commission reported that the United States was moving toward two "separate and unequal" societies, divided along racial lines. As the 21st century dawns, educators face the question; "Will this next century also be driven by the color line?"

This is where student-affairs professionals can come in. Student development models guide student-affairs professionals. These models -- including psychological, psychosocial and sociocultural, to name just a few -- address the nature of the human- and student-development process. Being grounded in and guided by these various models provides a tool for student-affairs professionals to potentially affect all students' academic development, social adjustment and success. …

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