In 4 years, 43% of majority students earned bachelor degrees, and 47.3% of them earned bachelor degrees in 9 years (Grayson, 2004;).
This national data provide ample evidence of limited gains and significant losses in the enrollment figures of African-American students in institutions of higher learning. These trends, evident over at least the last 15 years, plague institutions and persist despite recruitment and retention initiatives, as well as government-supported programs and legislative actions. This trend .is a clear imperative to colleges and universities to prioritize a commitment to diversity and to reexamine existing retention practices and programs.
Tinto (2000) conceptualized retention as an interactional process between student and institution characteristics. When student and institution characteristics do not mesh, students experience isolation, have difficulty identifying and feeling part of the institution, and are more likely to withdraw. Academically successful students, who persist through graduation, have been found to successfully integrate into the academic and social culture of the institution they attend (Pascarella & Terenzini, 2001, 2002). This integration process increases student satisfaction with the institution, creates a sense of belonging at the institution, and creates a stronger commitment to the institution's educational goals and standards, leading to an increased involvement with learning (Levin & Levin, 2000). This integration process is difficult for African-American students, especially at predominately White institutions (Grayson, 2004; Mayo, Murguia, & Padilla, 2001; Sedlacek, 2002). Oftentimes, African-American students at predominately White institutions feel they are in a foreign land and experience predominately White institutions as foreign colleges with alien cultures and communities (Tinto, 2000).
Over the past 40 years, students' characteristics have changed from White upper-or middle-class, academically skilled backgrounds to a complicated mix of socioeconomic, cultural, and academic-preparation backgrounds. Predominately White institutions often are unaware of the social, academic, and cultural needs of African-American students and of the barriers these students face in completing their 4-year degree. All too often, these institutions continue business as usual without addressing these needs and barriers (Phillip, 2000). It is not uncommon for African-American students in these environments to feel isolated, to question their academic ability, to experience inferiority feelings, and to question their self-worth. They also often experience disrespect, lower expectations, and pressure from peers not to perform well academically. Because of these experiences, African-American students often have difficulty communicating with the majority students, faculty, and staff at predominately White institutions and experience the negative effects of racism and other forms of discrimination (Belluck, 1999; Morgan, 2000, 2003; Phillip, 2000; Sedlacek, 2002; Walters, 2003). They become separated from the mainstream social and academic cultures on White campuses and become isolated and alienated from the institution (Phillip, 2000; Suen, 2000). Without what has been described as a "critical mass" (a large number of African-American students to create supportive minority subcultures on campus) or a strong