Thesis

The influence of academic and social support systems on the attitudes of African American students towards academic persistence

Brief Literature Review: While environmental factors play a role in a student’s institutional retention, student attitude and behavior may be just as significant to retention and degree completion. Exposure and prior knowledge of the social conventions of academia can be instrumental in preparing students for achieving success in a higher education setting (Farkas, 1996). Students who do not have family or friends who have been exposed to higher education cannot pass down the key tools to be academically successful in college. Students identifying as first generation are often from lower socioeconomic backgrounds and encounter decreased levels of family support, lessened college expectations, and lower educational values among parents (McConnell, 2000; Terrenzini, Springer, Yaeger, Pascarella, & Nora, 1996). Statement of the Problem: Institutions looking to promote the academic persistence of African American students may find that traditional retention practices may not work as well with students of color. Student retention is widely based on student engagement, including academic and social involvement with the campus community (Kuh, 2005). Identifying the ways in which academic and social supports effect attitudes of African American students towards academic persistence will allow colleges and universities to enhance existing programs or create programs to include support for students specifically through means of academic and social integration. Methodology: The study used a quantitative method to conduct research on all undergraduate African American students currently enrolled at a diverse university located in California’s capital. The study employed an electronic survey, and 103 students participated in the research. Conclusions and Recommendations: African American students’ most influential form of support came from themselves, indicating a high level of academic self-efficacy. The study revealed that African American students did not engage in academic and social activities on campus events with much frequency, but there seemed to be a slightly higher rate of academic engagement utilizing social informality than purely social activities between African American students and their peers. Understanding the influence of both academic and social support systems on student success, specifically African American student success, may allow institutions to foster or create support systems in alliance with academic programs.

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