An analysis of the factors affecting African American student persistence at a Vanguard Learning College

Turner, Misha A.
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This study examined the experiences of African American students who attend a Vanguard Learning College and persisted toward their educational goals at this particular college. African American students are often among the largest minority populations on community college campuses, yet research literature shows that historically, the persistence rates of these students are among the lowest of all ethnic groups nationally. A number of studies reveal that the lack of financial resources, hostile institutional climate and failure to integrate into the social and academic environment of the college are among the factors that have an adverse impact on the persistence of African American students in their attempts to remain in college and pursue their academic goals. Although African American vii student persistence has been a subject of growing concern in higher education, little research exists that goes beyond enrollment and retention trends of this group. Thus, this study was important in that it explored the personal and institutional factors that African American students who attended Moraine Valley Community College identified as aiding in their persistence. Knowledge about the factors that affect the persistence of African American students is needed to assist community college leaders with designing and implementing programs and practices that will lead to the success of these students. The factors that the participants perceived as contributors to their persistence were analyzed and attention has been given to the impact that the principles of the learning college have had on the participants’ persistence. Qualitative methods have been employed to collect and analyze the data. Naturalistic, phenomenological and symbolic interactionist approaches have been utilized to explore the attitudes, experiences and perceptions of participants related to their persistence at a Moraine Valley Community College, a Vanguard Learning College. This study revealed that the factors contributing to the student participants’ persistence at Moraine Valley Community College are:

  1. Access to college resources,
  2. Campus climate,
  3. Interaction with faculty and staff, viii
  4. Inner determination, and
  5. Family. The principles of the learning college and participant perceptions of how they relate to their persistence are also presented. This study offers recommendations for practice and further research.