African American college students at a private, urban, predominantly White institution: Patterns of success

Clover W Hall, Fordham University


This study used a case study strategy incorporating both quantitative and qualitative research methods to identify the background, environmental, and institutional factors contributing to the successful persistence of some African American students at predominantly White institutions. A private, metropolitan, commuter institution served as the site for the study. Institutional demographic, admissions, and academic data for 1992 to 1996 freshmen were merged with survey data from the Cooperative Institutional Research Program's national surveys of college freshmen to form the basis of the quantitative analysis. Qualitative data analysis was based on interviews with a sample of African American students and recent graduates, and document analyses of institutional records. Quantitative data were analyzed to identify the factors having the most effect on first-year retention and grade point averages of African American students. Statistical procedures included: frequency distributions, cross tabulations, chi-square analysis, t test, correlation analysis, linear regression, and logistic regression. Results indicated that first-semester grade point average was the main determinant of first-year retention. High school average, SAT verbal score, the number of hours spent studying, and self-ratings of drive to achieve were the best quantitative predictors of grades in college. The results also indicated that these variables explained a smaller percentage of the variation in performance of African American students than White students. Results of the interviews and document analyses indicated that the availability of ethnic and cultural organizations and the “critical mass” of African American students helped to reduce the isolation and alienation generally found on predominantly White campuses. In addition to their academic ability and good high school preparation, these African American students used a variety of coping strategies to help them be successful at this predominantly White institution. These strategies included: high self-concept, high aspirations, parental support and expectations, on-campus support primarily from the few African American administrators and faculty and other successful African American students, and involvement in cultural and ethnic organizations.

Subject Area

School administration|Minority & ethnic groups|Sociology

Recommended Citation

Hall, Clover W, "African American college students at a private, urban, predominantly White institution: Patterns of success" (2000). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9960948.