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The perceptions and experience of black students in higher education: Looking at the notion of "welcome"

Julie Anne Green, University of Massachusetts Amherst


The retention of Black students in higher education is a problem faced by virtually all institutions. Despite early contact programs and admissions procedures designed to best assess the likelihood of success, and despite the plethora of programs intended to relieve the discernible problems facing students, the attrition rate for Black students remains high. Vincent Tinto suggests that we understand early departures from higher education as a process. He discusses leaving as a function of social or academic "incongruence," the mismatch of student and institution that makes leaving seem the only choice. Effective planning thus necessitates our understanding the students' experience from their perspective, and mandates that "local conditions," the circumstances which determine the particular suitability of any program to an institution, be accommodated. Research data about retention concerns was gathered from three sources: (1) the review of literature, which was used as the external criteria for discussing the university's programs; (2) the programs of the university as described in its publicly-disseminated material; and (3) the perceptions and experiences of Black students, gathered through an interview-survey-data process. Additional data about the university came from the experience and observations of the researcher, a teacher there for six years. These data were then compared: literature to university, university to student perception and experience, and literature to student concerns. Racism was a key student concern. Yet what emerged as an equal or greater concern was their experience of "welcome" or "unwelcome" in their relationships with faculty, administration, and the social environs. Faculty and administration behaviors and priorities, understood as part of the "local conditions" and whether or not directly aimed toward students, had a pronounced negative effect on the Black students' experiences and perceptions. Potential areas of academic and social "incongruence" ultimately centered not in the programs which were offered (or their lack thereof), but in the students' general and specific experiences of unwelcome at the institution.

Subject Area

Higher education|Educational administration|Educational sociology|Black studies

Recommended Citation

Green, Julie Anne, "The perceptions and experience of black students in higher education: Looking at the notion of "welcome"" (1996). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9619391.