African American college students perceptions of success at a predominantly White institution

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Counseling and Human Services


Alan Goldberg


College students, Success, Predominantly White, African-American

Subject Categories

African American Studies | Social Psychology and Interaction | Student Counseling and Personnel Services


African American college students attending predominantly White institutions (PWIs) have significantly lower grade point averages and graduation rates than White students. Historically, this has been attributed to lack of academic preparation but recent research has indicted that non-cognitive factors may also play a role in the underachievement and attrition of African American students. In this qualitative study, 102 African American students or former students at a PWI were interviewed individually and in focus groups to understand their perceptions of influences affecting their academic achievement and persistence. The major themes related to involvement in African American student organizations, relationships with faculty and advisors, and the influence of their home communities will be presented to understand the shared experiences of these students. Key differences among academically high-achieving students, low achievers, and leavers are also presented. Finally, a framework based on the principles of human motivation is offered as a way to understand differences in academic achievement and persistence among African American college students attending PWIs.


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