Diversity of student populations within higher education has considerably increased, particularly for women and minority populations, which is indicative of greater access to education toward a college degree. However, increased diversity of student populations has introduced a new set of challenges for higher education administrators in that it is becoming increasingly difficult for administrators to maintain current educational methods when considering the changing needs of matriculating students. As a result, higher education institutions are compelled to strategize beyond the "one-size-fits all" approach in the way teaching and support services are delivered in order to provide a more holistic approach to learning.
Researchers have sought to establish a universal definition of student success and they continue to work toward understanding the factors of that inhibit or promote success for college students. Numerous studies have indicated that student success factors are numerous and a number of individual and institutional factors work collectively in a student's decision to leave or persist in college. Yet, there has not been much emphasis on the factors of success for African American undergraduate women in college. As such, this study explored the extent to which two specific factors--social integration and student involvement--predict the level of perceived success based on self-reported gains for African American undergraduate women.
In this quantitative study, the researcher utilized a purposeful, national sample of secondary data from the College Student Experiences Questionnaire (CSEQ) Assessment Program to analyze levels of social integration and student involvement of African American undergraduate college women. Included in the sample were results from 736 African American undergraduate women who were enrolled at the 26 participating large, public predominately white institutions in the United States and completed the survey the between 2005-2010 data collection periods. The majority of the sample (n = 566) was freshmen/ first-year students.
Several statistical analyses were conducted to examine relationships between variables (social integration, student involvement, and self-reported gains) including multiple regression tests, analysis of variances (ANOVAs), and Pearson Product Moment Correlations. Results of the analyses indicated that the relationships between social integration, student involvement, and each of the self-reported gains were statistically significant. Additionally, findings indicated that there is no statistically significant relationship between levels of social integration and classification in college, but there is a statistically significant relationship between levels of student involvement and classification in college.
There were several implications of the study. First, student affairs and higher education professionals must work to ensure that the out-of-classroom experiences work in concert with experiences inside-of-the-classroom to promote a holistic approach to learning. This includes understanding the inhibitors and promoters of success for African American undergraduate women. Additionally, professionals must also recognize that the combined factors of being both Black and female comprise a unique identity component for African American undergraduate women as research has shown that identity development occurs in light of racism and sexism. Therefore, higher education professionals must be cognizant of perceived barriers and work to eliminate them to promote optimal success for this group of students. Furthermore, institutions should understand that self-reported gains, or what students perceive or report about their own learning experiences, could possibly provide more insight into the college experience rather than the sole consideration of grades to assess learning.
The conclusion of this research study is that results both support and contradict current literature related to social integration and student involvement.