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Socioeconomic Status on College Retention

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The Effect of African-American Students Socioeconomic Status on how it Affects College Retention and Graduation Rates at Historically Black Colleges and Universities

With Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) graduation rates at the lowest they have been in the last decade I have become concerned. It makes me wonder what is causing this and what needs to be done in order to change this. While reading an article from The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education (JBHE) I found out that out of the thirty-seven of the four year HBCUs only four of them have a graduation rate over fifty percent. These institutions are Spelman College with a rate of seventy-nine percent, Howard University with a rate of sixty-four percent, Morehouse College with a rate of sixty-one percent, and Hampton University with a rate of fifty-four percent (JBHE, 2012). The purpose of paper is to find out what are some of the factors that are playing a major role in the graduation and retention rates of African-American students at HBCUs and what can be done to help increase these numbers.

The Effect Students Socioeconomic Status on High it Affects College Retention and Graduation Rates The first thing that I wanted to look at was the family background of the average African-American student attending a HBCU. I wanted to know how their socioeconomic status directly affected their overall performance, and if the parental educational attainment affected the student’s success while they matriculate through their college career.
Family Background There have been many studies that show a direct correlation with a student’s socioeconomic status and their performance in the classroom. Many of the students that attend Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) come from backgrounds of low socioeconomic status and their parents have lower average incomes compared to their counterparts that attend predominantly white institutions. These students come to these institutions of higher learning without the adequate skills to be successful in their college courses. All of these factors lead to high dropout rates which adversely affect the graduation rates (JBHE, 2012). The importance of education and the number of family members with degrees have been shown to have an effect on how the student does in school. Only about thirty percent of 18 to 24 year olds whose parents did not graduate from high school reach college, compared to about 85 percent of 18 to 24 year olds where the householder has a bachelor’s degree or more from college (Day &Day,1999). When parents or family members have a degree it changes the expectations of the students. The difference between parents with substantial incomes and an educational background and parents with low incomes and little to no education, is that the parents with the substantial income and educational background tend to have more reasonable expectations of the students. Unlike the parent with a lower income and little to no educational background who would expect their child to perform in school at levels that they are not capable of (Davis-Kean, 2005).
Emotional Stability
The student’s achievement was directly related to the home environment, which is dictated by the parent’s education and income. In lower income homes where parents lack an educational background, the parents to tend to work longer hours leaving the student home alone to watch television and not gain appropriate emotional responses that are necessary to handle day to day situations that will help them to be successful in daily endeavors in and outside of the classroom. Students with emotional and social dysregulation may get so easily frustrated that they give up on a task when success is just moments away. Social dysregulation also affects students when working in groups, because while working in groups they may come across as disengaged. The emotional brain can be represented by a keyboard on which children from poverty use fewer keys than well-off children. The six responses represented by the darker shading on the keyboard and in the center box are hardwired in our DNA. The responses represented by the lighter shading must be taught (Jensen, 2009).

Figure 2.1(Jensen, 2009)
The characteristics in the light grey areas are important for students to have so that they may handle situations in the best manner and in turn have a positive outcome.
Increasing Graduation Rates Graduation rates for African-American students at HBCUs are at an all-time low. In a recent survey conducted by The Journal of Black in Higher Education (JBHE) the graduation rate at over half of the institutions included in the survey is below thirty-three percent. In order to increase these numbers at HBCU’s they must create environments where students are able to create reliable relationships that allow students to feel special, activities that strengthen peer socialization, and academic resources. Spelman College, currently the HBCU with the highest retention and graduation rates, has various programs that help to create productive students. They offer regularly scheduled workshops on skills that African-American students tend to lack, such as study techniques and learning strategies. They also place all freshman students in cohorts that they participate in daily activities in. Theses cohorts encourage positive socialization skill and also help the students to build positive relationships with their peers. Also concepts that are used here in Benedict Colleges Freshman Institute such as early interventions are key to making sure students stay on track for graduation.
It is imperative that we increase not only the retention rates at HBCU’s but also the graduation rates. HBUC’s must become more effective in assisting students to become productive citizens in society. This is more than the institutions responsibility to prepare these students; we must hold the primary educational system accountable. This will allow post-secondary institutions to focus less on remedial coursework and more on the intended content. Also the parents and guardians of these students must be more involved in their child’s education by going to parent teacher conferences and participating in the parent teacher association. This will help to encourage students and make sure the best decisions are being made on behalf of the student.

Davis-Kean, P. (2005). The Influence of parent education and family income on child
Achievement: The indirect role of parental expectations and the home environment. 19(2), 294-304. doi: 10.1037//08933200.19.2.294.
Jensen, E. (2009). Teaching with poverty in mind. Association for Supervision
& Curriculum Development. Retrieved from
Beverly, B. (2009). African American student retention. (Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Michigan State University) Retrieved from
(2006). Black student college graduation rates remain low, but modest progress begins to show. Retrieved from
Day, J., & Day, C. (1999). Parental educational attainment and higher educational opportunity. Retrieved from U.S> Government Printing website:
Love, D. (2008). Revitalizing retention efforts for African-American college students at predominately white institutions. Proceedings of the Allied Academies, 15(2), 117-122.…...

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