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A qualitative study of the experiences of black undergraduate students at a predominantly white four-year institution of higher education

Travis J Tatum, University of Massachusetts Amherst


As a consequence of the racial dilemma that exists in this society, Black students on White campuses experience education in ways that are different from that of their White cohorts. Black students tend to experience more social and academic alienation, more financial and personal problems, and feel less satisfaction with their educational experience. Much of the research on the experiences of Black students in higher education tends to use quantitative methodologies which do provide insights into the experiences of these students. However, these methodologies do not allow the students to speak for themselves about their experiences. Giving students the opportunity to explain their own realities is one way to deepen our understanding of that experience. This process calls for a qualitative approach, one which may expand our understanding of the experiences of these students. The qualitative approach used in this study includes a thematic analysis of interview data taken from Black students on a predominantly White college campus. The data from this study supported earlier research and confirmed that Black students experience alienation and isolation at this predominantly White college campus. Alienation and isolation was experienced in the classroom and in their living arrangements on campus. The students stated that one of the major learning experiences at the college was learning how to respond to racism and to manage their social relationships with White students and professors in a beneficial way. While students felt that the experience was difficult, they also found it beneficial in that they saw it as preparation for the world outside of college.

Subject Area

Higher education|Bilingual education|Multicultural education|African Americans|Educational sociology

Recommended Citation

Tatum, Travis J, "A qualitative study of the experiences of black undergraduate students at a predominantly white four-year institution of higher education" (1991). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9207464.