Masters Thesis

The Achilles heel of higher education: minority student retention

In American institutions of higher learning all around the country, educators—teachers, counselors, and administrators have made significant progress in identifying and recruiting diverse populations. Despite these efforts, many students of color (e.g., African Americans, Hispanic Americans and Native Americans) are not faring as well as their white peers. A number of factors have been identified as important to the retention and success of minority students in American colleges and universities. Among these factors are academic and social integration. Some of these social and cultural obstacles (e.g., racial and ethnic prejudice, negative peer pressure, poor parental involvement, negative teacher and counselor expectations, etc.) that students of color face in educational institutions are also well known. The purpose of this thesis is to model the relationship between college experience and retention for minority students enrolled in American institutions of higher learning (using Humboldt State University as a case study). This thesis looks at two studies done at HSU that focus on the experiences and profiles of students. The first study conducted by the Humboldt State University Office of Student Affairs examines students who began as first‐time HSU freshmen Fall, 2006 but did not return for their junior year. The second study conducted by the Office of Diversity & Inclusion looks at a cross-section of ethnic/racial minority students, in order to discuss with these students a range of issues relevant to diversity on the HSU campus. The focus group project also aims to fill in the gaps in analyses (such as the information collected and statistical data that already exists on campus) and to help administration, staff, and faculty understand why some groups of students are doing so much better or worse than other students. Also, more broadly, this project collected student feedback on a wider range of issues, such as perceptions of HSU’s commitment to diversity, trends in student interaction across different groups, and the quality of different groups of students’ experiences on this campus. Primary findings are reported and a model of the college experience consistent with past research is proposed here. In order to improve minority student retention, it is clear that institutions must do more than implementing programs (student activities, clubs, college survival workshops, etc). Recruitment is an important component for increasing the number of minority students, but retaining our students is equally important and institutional programs are not enough. Using multiple frameworks, this thesis examines the notion of retention and its many challenges and offers recommendations for improving the retention of minority students.

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