The Persistence Of African American College Men

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Higher Education Program


Doctor of Philosophy

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This study explored the family dynamics of persistent African American college men. These students were typical Black males, not those pre-categorized as high-achieving or unprepared for college. The stories of participants revealed their strength, ambition, and intentions to successfully gain a baccalaureate degree. In general Black males are known more for their crimes than their persistence. The portrayal of Black men as troublesome is a consistent theme within the media and social science literature. Typical buzz words such as urban, inner-city, and at-risk are used to label Black students. In conjunction with downbeat portrayals, themes of substance abuse, low academic achievement and maladjustment are often presented. The persistence of Black college men are problematic as their graduation numbers have decreased over the years. Mortenson (2002) found that African American men earned 43% of baccalaureate degrees awarded to Blacks in 1977 and only 34% in 2000. The progress for Black men appear to be stagnate over the last 30 years and educators now question what is needed for greater persistence. While there is evidence that some Black men never graduate college, this reality is not reflective of all Black men. In fact, many do persist to earn a baccalaureate degree and continue to graduate school and the workforce. This study will tell the stories of those who have persisted in higher education and explore the familial, social, and environmental factors that led to their persistence. Six African American college men participated in this research. Many positive factors were found that contributed to resiliency and their ability to defy odds. Ultimately, it was found that quality social environments, supportive families, and positive mentors motivate college men. The Social Capital, Hyper-Masculinity, and Exchange theories guided this study. The findings provide insight for colleges, parents, policy makers, and constituents who aim to support Black men.