"We're in this together": Family Factors Contributing to the Academic Persistence of African American College Students attending an HBCU

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Virginia Tech


Academic persistence among African American college students has become an important issue due to the consistent lack of increase in the retention rates of these students. Despite the importance of this issue in the field of education, little has been done to study how family factors may influence college student's academic success from a family science perspective. Further, students attending HBCUs are rarely utilized in empirical research even though HBCUs have proven to be effective in graduating African American students. The purpose of this qualitative study was to examine the ways in which African American college students' perceive family relationships and support as impacting their academic persistence.

Fourteen African American college students attending an HBCU were interviewed about their perceptions of the impact of family relationships and support on their academic persistence. Participants included nine females and five males all identifying as juniors or seniors. Findings for the study included four major themes: (a) family structure and family relationships, (b) challenges/overcoming obstacles, (c) coping strategies, and (d) success and perseverance. Family structure and relationships were defined in a variety of ways by participants, which included immediate family, non-kin, and extended family. Participants faced several challenges and obstacles including transitioning to college, family issues at home, and being a burden, particularly financially, on other family members. Several coping strategies were utilized by participants. Family support, religiosity, peer relationships, and music were cited most often by participants in this study. The study concluded that family relationships and support are indeed important in academic persistence of African American college students.



Academic Persistence, African American Families, College Students