Statement of the Problem
In the United States, academic achievement among African American students is much lower than that of Caucasian students in all grade levels. African American students enroll in and graduate from college at lower rates than Caucasian college students in the United States (U.S. Census Bureau, 2009). The U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics reported that merely 12.7% of African Americans were enrolled in a degree-granting institution in 2008, compared to 65.7% of Caucasian Americans. This disparity continues to rise as stiffer college requirements and a decrease in affirmative action policies has emerged. Thus, African American college students are highly underrepresented in the institutional setting (U.S. Census Bureau, 2009). This lack of achievement and retention is preventing African American students from attaining degrees in higher education and achieving high paying and fulfilling job opportunities.
Many factors contribute to achievement and retention among African American students (Somers, Owens, & Piliawsky, 2008). First, family support is a social factor that has been thoroughly examined, and research indicates that parental support plays a significant role in achievement and persistence in African American students (Davis, Johnson, Cribbs, & Saunders, 2002; Gaylord-Harden, 2008; Hubbard, 2005; Jay & D’Augelli, 1991; Mandara, 2006; Newman & Newman, 1999; Palmer & Gasman, 2008; Pollard, 1993; Powell & Arriola, 2003; Rogers & Rose, 2001; Smokowski, Reynolds, & Bezruczko, 1999; Somer, Owens, & Piliawsky, 2008; Walker & Satterwhite, 2002). A second potential factor is university faculty support. Although research on the role of faculty support in Black students’ academic performance and persistence has been sparse, the data suggest faculty support to be a key factor in promoting success and persistence (Allen & Smith, 2008; Charles, Dinwiddle, & Massey, 2004; Frank, 2003; Grier-Reed, Madyun, & Buckley, 2008; Jay & D’Augelli, 1991; Newman & Newman, 1999; Palmer & Gasman, 2008; Smokowski et al., 1999; Wilson & Stith, 1993). Research also indicates that positive peer relationships is an important factor in promoting achievement and persistence among African American grade school students (Gibson, 2005; Horvat & Lewis, 2003; Hubbard, 2005; Neman & Newman, 1999; Palmer & Gasman, 2008; Stilth & Wilson, 1993; Smokowski et al., 1999; Somer et al., 2008). Current research has placed great emphasis on the social factors that promote success among elementary and secondary students; however, few studies have investigated the power of social support on college students. Moreover, the limited research that has been conducted in higher education has sampled specific types of institutions, such as Historically Black Colleges/Universities (HBCU) and Predominantly White Institutions/Universities (PDI/U). Future research must focus on diverse institutions of higher education with low Black student enrollment.
The current study examined the relationship between academic achievement and faculty and peer support among African American students attending a diverse institution of higher education with low Black students enrollment. The study of African American college students in these institutions contributes to more general understanding of students of color. Studying factors that promote the achievement of students of color is essential, as this combined population makes up half of students today in the U.S. The U.S. Department of Education reported that by 2003, students of color would comprise 40% of the total student population with as many as 70% of these students residing in larger cities within California, New York, Texas, and others (Somers, Owens, & Piliawsky, 2008). Because nearly half of the population in major cities is comprised of students of color, researchers need to further examine the relationship between...