The relationships between social and personal variables and academic success and persistence

Date of Completion

January 1997


Black Studies|Education, Sociology of|Education, Adult and Continuing|Sociology, Ethnic and Racial Studies|Education, Higher




Despite America's increasing diversification of population, disproportionately fewer African-American and Hispanic students are entering and succeeding in college. To unleash fully the creative and economic potential offered by the varied cultural milieu within the US, institutions of higher education must attract students from diverse backgrounds and provide them with the educational programs to succeed in school.^ Previous studies have failed to identify unitary variables that predict more than a small amount of the observed variance in academic success and persistence. Rather, research that assessed the impact of individual variables upon academic outcomes suggests the existence of a complex, interactive variable structure which exerts differential effects upon students, with respect to their racial/ethnic group membership.^ This study examined the relationships between and among a variety of social, personal, and demographic variables and their effects upon academic success and persistence in a sample of 542 two-year and four-year college students at six educational institutions located on the eastern coast of the US. A survey, developed from prior research and piloted on a sample of students from the target population, was used to measure 13 social and personal variables. Data regarding grade point average, earned credit ratio, and number of semesters completed were obtained from the participating colleges with the agreement of the students. The study analyzed the individual and interactive effects of social and personal variables upon academic success and persistence, with particular emphasis upon the impact of racial/ethnic group membership. Data were analyzed using hierarchical multiple regression and ANOVA.^ Results showed that personal variables were relatively more important in explaining the variance in academic success for non-Hispanic Caucasian students, while social variables were more important for the African-American students in the sample. The study also suggests the presence of a complex personal/social/educational system that is capable of magnifying small initial discrepancies between racial/ethnic groups (e.g., college role conflict or barriers to participation) into much larger differences in academic outcomes. The theoretical and practical significance of the findings are discussed. ^