Factors that Influence the College Choice Process for African American Students


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Virginia Tech


There has been a slight increase in African American enrollment in higher education in the 30 years since the passage of the Civil Rights Act. However, minority students are not represented in higher education in numbers proportionate to their representation in the general population. African Americans consist of 12.6% of the population, but only 10.6% of the students enrolled in higher education (Chronicle of Higher Education Almanac, 1998).

Additionally, there are differences in the types of schools that successfully educate African American students. Historically Black institutions (HBIs) confer a disproportionately high number of bachelor's degrees on such students. Of all the bachelor's degrees conferred on African Americans in 1994, over 43% were awarded by predominantly White institutions (PWIs) while HBIs conferred 45.1% of the degrees (Nettles & Perna, 1997). There seems to be some difference between the success rates of African American students at PWIs and HBIs.

One of the factors that may influence these success rates is the college selection process. That is, if there are different types of African American students attending PWIs versus HBIs, those differences may account for some of the differences in success rates at the two types of schools. It would seem that research is needed on the factors that African Americans consider in the college selection process, and if those factors differ between African Americans at PWIs and those at HBIs. The present study sought to examine this issue.

A 60-item survey was developed specifically for this study. Survey items asked respondents to rate the extent of influence (very negative to very positive) that factors in four arenas played in their decision to attend a particular school. The four arenas explored in the study included academic factors, social factors, personal factors, and financial factors. The target sample included 360 traditional aged freshmen students: 180 at a PWI and 180 at a HBI.

Mean scores and standard deviations were calculated on all items for each group. These were rank-ordered by group to explore differences by item. Then a factor analysis was conducted to create subscales of the items for each scale. Finally, independent t-tests were conducted to compare mean scores between groups. Results revealed no significant differences in mean score between groups or any of the subscales. However, important differences between groups were identified when the rankings of the mean scores were examined.



African American college students, college selection