Date of Award

Winter 2001

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Urban Services - Urban Education

Committee Director

Dana Burnett

Committee Member

James A. Calliotte

Committee Member

Christopher W. Lovell

Committee Member

Stephen C. Zerwas


This study addressed the use of certain noncognitive variables and their relationship to the academic achievement and persistence rate of African-American freshmen students attending a large, predominately white institution. Academic achievement was defined as a student's cumulative college grade point average and cumulative credits earned at the end of the freshmen year of study. Persistence rate was defined as the number of freshmen who enrolled compared to the percentage of those who re-enrolled for the Fall semester of their sophomore year. Moreover, the purpose of this study was to identify selected variables that are associated with increased African-American academic achievement and persistence and to impact policy that guides the development and implementation of student retention programs for these students.

The population for this study consisted of the 1996–97 and 1997–98 freshmen cohorts who entered a large, state-supported, southeastern, predominately white institution. The statistical analyses were conducted on data collected from 647 African-American undergraduate freshmen students who matriculated at the university during the Fall of 1996 and 1997. These cohorts were chosen because the 1996–1999 time frame was a period in which the Freshman Survey, a noncognitive assessment of students' attitudes, behaviors, and expectations, did not experience any major revisions. The university has a culturally diverse student body of over 18,000.

The study was performed in two parts: (a) student responses were identified using the Freshmen Survey, an instrument designed to collect information about incoming students' attitudes, characteristics, behaviors, and expectations; (b) statistically significant relationships of noncognitive variables with respect to the amount of variance between them and the dependent variables of academic achievement and the persistence rate were then determined. The results indicated that academic self-concept was significantly related to cumulative college grade point average (GPA) and cumulative credits earned after the freshman year. Cumulative credits earned showed a higher correlation with academic self-concept than did cumulative college GPA. Discussion focused on the concept that African-American students benefit from programs that provide wholesome, positive environments. It also focused on the responsibility of colleges and universities who are serious about African-American student retention to provide these environments. Implications of the results were discussed as they relate to African-American graduate students and future research.


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