The Misappropriation of College Retention Programs

inLove, B. J. (1993). Issues and problems in the retention of black students in predominantly white institutions of higher education. Equity & Excellence in Education, 26(1), 27-36.

Barbara J. Love (1993) takes a strong look at retention issues in her article, Issues and Problems in the Retention of Black Students in Predominantly White Institutions of Higher Education. Published over twenty years ago, this article presents solid information about Black student retention in White universities and factors that cause Black students to drop-out prior to graduation. As a means for future study, this article provides a historical perspective on the issue of Black student retention which can be compared to recent literature on the topic.

The goal of Love’s (1993) article is to identify issues in retention programs that are not traditionally addressed in Predominantly White Institutions (PWIs). For years, graduation rates for minorities students, specifically Black students, have been dismal in PWIs. Historically, Black students graduate approximately one third less frequently than their White counterparts (Love, 1993). As a means to remedy the stagnation of Black graduation rates, higher education institutions created significant retention programs to address attrition issues without significant results. However, Love (1993) identifies a research gap between what Black students identify as factors causing them to drop, and what PWI institutions identify as retention issues. Accessible literature showed that most retention programs focus on changing the student and their behaviors, while failing to examine issues of institutionalized racism (Love, 1993).

Using James Meredith, the first Black student to be admitted to the University of Mississippi, as an example of the growing number of Black students who enroll in White institutions, Love (1993), reveals that more students of color are now enrolled in college than ever before, yet there are still low graduation rates. The U.S. Census Bureau data showed that 34% of Black high school graduates  attended college in 1976 dwindling down to just 27% in 1983 (Evans, 1985). Additionally, more Black students enrolled in junior or community colleges rather than in four-year institutions (Love, 1993). In 1985, Blacks comprised only 12% of the U.S. population, yet represented only 8% of undergraduate students. PWIs admit nearly 80% of Black college students; however, only 60% of those students received Bachelor’s degrees from those institutions (McCauley, 1988). The drop-out rate for Black students is eight times higher than White students enrolled in the same institution. Love (1993) presents this data to show the discrepancy of Black students enrolled in PWIs as compared to those who actually complete their degree pointing toward a “revolving door that cuts short the promise of educational equity” (p. 28).

Love (1993) draws on Marvalene S. Hughes’ (1987) article, Black Students’ Participation in Higher Education, in which Black students enrolled in Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) described factors that contributed to their success. Students reported feeling welcome and comfortable in the learning environment in HBCUs. Students attributed the ability to “hang out” with other Black students in their major and residence halls as factors in their comfort. Additionally, students felt at ease talking with professors and staff making connections to student and academic services accessible. On the contrary, experiences for Black students at PWIs are quite different. Black students typically find themselves ignored in classrooms, blocked from campus social life, and harassed by campus police (Noel, Levitz, & Saluri, 1985). Love (1993) goes on to say that “Black students in PWIs must be strong self-starters who are fully independent, with strong defenses to combat stereotypes, fears, alienation and loneliness” (p. 28). Although retention programs have been implemented to improve Black graduation rates in PWIs, however, none address institutionalized racism as a factor in attrition. Love (1993) lists seven categories of factors contributing to Black student retention:

  • White racism: overt and covert systems of racial prejudice, bias, and hatred toward Black and other students of color, resulting in the loss of opportunities or advancement
  • Institutional leadership: strength of administration to recognize and combat racism within the institution
  • Finances: awareness, and availability of financial support through government funding, or personal or familial finances
  • Social interaction, cultural dissonance, and environmental incongruence: intra and interpersonal relationships with other students in the institution; the divide between the student’s personal culture and the university culture; the capability of the university to respond to the student’s needs, goals, and aspirations
  • Faculty-student interaction: how students feel toward White professors, and comfort level in asking for additional instruction, advice, or information
  • Student services: the awareness and friendliness of dining halls, residence halls, gyms, counseling services, and student work positions
  • Student characteristics: student’s familial and academic background, self-image, self-esteem and “locus of control” (belief that either internal or external factors decide one’s fate)

Love (1993) uses a study by Noel, Levitz, and Saluri (1985) entitled, Increasing Student Retention, in which the authors evaluated several college retention programs examining the factors mentioned above. They found that no program addressed issues of racism or leadership within the institution, and the majority of programs were focused on student characteristics as the main factor of Black student attrition. Love (1993) concludes and recommends that retention programs in PWIs must address the full range of retention problems affecting Black students rather than concentrating on factors institutions feel most comfortable addressing. White institutions should develop programs to eliminate racism by examining policies, practices, and individual attitudes of students and faculty, which may have an effect on the student’s course load, academic major choice, satisfaction with the university, and overall performance (Love, 1993). Finally, training for institutional leadership should be required for the efficacy of all retention programs. The administrations of PWIs are traditionally comprised of White men who attended White institutions themselves during an era where Black enrollment was not a topic of interest. Such training enables institutional leaders to understand and recognize racism in order to provide access and educational equity.

As stated previously, this article is quite dated; yet, it provides significant historical data that will allow me to compare factors in Black student retention in decades past to current factors. Love (1993) uses a clear, concise writing style makes each section of the article understandable and purposeful; there is no uncertainty in the content. She introduced the article by discussing the disparity of Black student retention, which immediately caught my attention, before moving into significant factors and accessible literature on the topic showing cohesiveness within the content. Additionally, Love (1993) shows no trepidation about the issue of institutionalized racism; a topic typically avoided and deemphasized in higher education research. This article is essential for my research because it focuses specifically on retention programs and the lack of recognition of racial factors in Black student graduation rates. The most intriguing point of this article for me is that Love (1993) takes issue with placing responsibility on the student to manage their own educational experience, and that retention programs focus on the student’s personal characteristics and their ability to integrate themselves into the university culture; an immense, and unbearable task for marginalized students. I plan to explore the area of student responsibility in retention and integration in PWIs within my own research. Additional areas of research could be to compare successful Black students at PWI’s to those who are unsuccessful using information from such research to improve current retention programs. Also, the connection to “locus of control” and retention should be examined to see if Black students typically feel that external factors such as campus climate, student services, faculty, social and academic organizations are ultimately responsible for their experience at White institutions. Overall, Love’s (1993) article compliments my research initiatives by providing uncomfortable, yet important information on how retention programs have failed Black students, giving me a foundation to explore current issues and trends in minority student retention.


Berry, B. (1983). Blacks in predominantly white insitutions of higher education. In J. D. William, The state of black america (pp. 295-318). New York, NY: National Urban League.

Evans, G. (1985, August 7). Social, financial barrier blamed for curbing Blacks’ access to college. Chronicle of Higher Edcuation, 1-15.

Hughes, M. (1987). Black students’ participation in higher education. Journal of College Student Personnel, 532-55.

Love, B. J. (1993). Issues and problems in the retention of black students in predominantly white institutions of higher edcuation. Equity & Excellence in Education, 26(1), 27-36.

McCauley, D. (1988). Effects of specific factors on blacks’ persistence at a predominantly white university. Journal of College Student Development, 45-51.

Noel, L., Levitz, R., & Saluri, D. (1985). Increasing student retention. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

You take the good, you take the bad


Pinto Alicea, I. (1995, Sep 15). RESEARCH: The state of Hispanic education. The Hispanic        Outlook in Higher Education, 6, 10. Retrieved from

Pinto’s (1995) article “The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education” focuses on Hispanics and teaching positions in higher education. The numbers are growing with Hispanic women making the most progress with regards to becoming full-time faculty at colleges and universities (Pinto, 1995, p. 1). The author points out the good the and bad with regards to Hispanics working at higher institutions as members of the teaching faculty. The numbers continue to trend upwards in terms of progress being made, but the author goes on the immediately compare this progress to drop-out rates.

Pinto references an American Council on Education report. Pinto (1995) here describes some of the data found in the report: “The report also found that the Hispanic drop-out rate in 1993 was 27.5 percent, nearly four times the rate for whites. Hispanics comprised 29 percent of all dropouts even though Hispanics account for only about 12 percent of the 16- to 24-year-old population” (p. 5). Factoring in the rising population rates of Hispanics in America, this data is troublesome. As their population grows, much too large a portion of it is dropping out of schools. This is not trending well to say the least, and though major strides are being made, again, especially in terms of Hispanic women in higher education institutions, the overall data needs to begin to reverse itself or slow dramatically. Still, Pinto does a nice job of describing the heartening trends of Hispanic women in education. Pinto (1995) writes, “Latinas accounted for much of the increase in doctorates conferred to Hispanics. In 1993 alone, the number of doctoral degrees received by Hispanic women jumped 12 percent compared to 2.9 percent for Hispanic men. Although Hispanic men continued to earn slightly more doctorates between 1983 and 1993, the number of doctoral degrees awarded to Hispanic women increased at a faster rate than that of Hispanic men” (p. 10). The implications of this study need to be examined further. To discover the reasoning between the positive inroads of Hispanic women in education and apply it to all Hispanic students would be a great start. In terms of these numbers, there must be something useful that can be gleaned from the positive data sets. I’d like to think that it’s not gender specific and that something universal can found, upon analysis of the data, which can then be turned around to help the whole of the burgeoning Hispanic population.


This was not a hard article to follow though it was not organized with any sort of guiding headings. It read more like a block of text, but it was organized using paragraphs to convey that ideas were shifting or evolving. Still, the author was definitive in her writing, especially at the onset of the piece. Her sentences were definitive and non-esoteric and related directly to the data regarding college enrollment gains of Hispanic students along with the data on high school drop-out rates amongst Hispanics as well.

Contribution to Field

This article is important to my overall research, and it contributes to this field of study because it elucidates data, and it finds experts in their fields to analyze and support the data. The trends the author discusses are important. The growth of female Hispanic students as college graduates and as college professors is a trend to keep an eye on. Pinto (1995) writes, “Interestingly, Hispanic women made the most gains; the number of bachelor’s degrees they earned from 1981 to 1992 more than doubled, and the number of women earning first-professional degrees nearly tripled” (9). I would like to point out, though, that this article is from 1995. Because of this, there is so much more data to look at. One reason I chose this article, though, is that I can use it to show growth from some of the more recent college graduation rates of the last few years. Also, Pinto does provide solid reasoning for the trends in education which were valid in 1995 and are still valid today.    

Literature Review

Pinto’s use of literature supports her overall article and her data analysis.  She cites reports from the American Council on Education and uses quotations from the council’s director of minorities, Henry Garza.  I think both of those in concert strengthen any and all arguments that she makes.  I do feel like the numbers she presents speak for themselves but to then add in a council director as an interrupter of the results is even better.  Pinto (1995) quotes Garza here: “The study captures the status of Latinos in education,” Hector Garza, director of ACE’s Office of Minorities in Higher Education, says of the results of his organization’s 13th Annual Status Report on Minorities in Higher Education. “It gives us a measure from which to judge our success rate. Latinos continue to make progress but still have a long way to go to reach parity and the education goals for our community” (p. 2).  I’m happy, again, to have found this report, not because it features the most up-to-date data but because it will serve as a baseline in terms of showing progress or a regression juxtaposed next to more recent reports.  Pinto also cites the U.S. Department of Education, the U.S. Bureau of Census Current Population Reports, and the National Center for Education Statistics.  Additionally, Pinto cites Ricardo Martinez of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities.  Pinto (1995) quotes Martinez here: “We are deeply concerned about the pre-collegiate drop-out rates” (p. 2).  I also think using college success rate data compared to high school drop-out rates provided me an interesting contrast and gave me a clear picture of the status of Hispanic education during this time period. Congress are not helping us in this regard.” A major factor in the drop-out problem seems to be the language barrier. This is something second-language learners will perpetually have to deal with; however, being cognizant of this fact has helped educators develop early intervention strategies to better serve these types of learners.

Data Collection

In terms of data collection, Pinto utilizes the aforementioned reports, but she does not only use the data exclusively from 1995.  Pinto cites report data from as far back as ten years prior.  She discusses data trends from this time period and covers this time period in depth.  Also, with her data collection she uses authorities in the field to comment on the data.  I feel that this only buttresses the arguments that she makes.  It would be one thing if she takes a data set and comments on it herself, but when she cites ACE data and then supports it with an ACE director, her arguments are much more effective.


Pinto’s analysis in her article takes key data points found in these studies and make them accessible to the laymen.  She also does a really nice job of sub-dividing the trends found in this report.  For instance, Pinto (1995) writes this regarding the types of advanced degrees earned by Hispanic students, “The most popular category was education, where Hispanics earned 211 doctorates in 1993, followed closely by the social sciences, with 182 degrees awarded” (p. 10).  This is an important trend to note, and it’s one that I’ll follow up on when I look at some of the more recent reports on college degrees earned by Hispanic students.  She did go on to write that engineering was least popular of all advanced degrees (Pinto, p. 10), and I’d like to see if this trend has continued on to this day.  I wonder if something was enacted to support Hispanics in their pursuit of degrees more related to math and sciences because of the results of these studies, and I’d like to see if this measure was successful.

Since this article was written in the nineties, I’d like to see the results of increased doctoral degrees amongst Hispanics.  I wonder if Hispanic educators twenty years ago produced another generation of Hispanic students pursuing degrees in education, or did their influence produce the scientists and engineers of this generation?

Theoretical Framework/Lens

Pinto’s roles in her article are myriad. She’s a reporter, a researcher, a data collector, and a cheerleader. She’s an advocate and a critic. She’s a well-wisher and a chider. I feel emotion in her data analysis; I feel pride, and I feel like she’s disappointed. Mostly, I feel like Pinto is someone who cares about the Hispanic population and foresees a bright future for Hispanic students.

Findings & Conclusions

Ultimately, as previously mentioned, Pinto’s conclusions center around foreseeing constant growth for young Hispanic learners. Still, she sees a need for more intervention to better serve Hispanic students. Here, Pinto (1995) quotes Garza once again, “”We need a national plan,” Garza says. “For the Latino community as a whole, we have made progress in college enrollment and graduation rates, but we continue to have a problem with the drop-out rate and in K-12” (p. 3). Including this quotation amongst the data shows that Pinto has concluded that there is much work to do with regards to this issue. Pinto has found two sets of data with regards to Hispanic college students: advanced degrees are on the rise, especially with Hispanic females, but drop-out rates are far too high for Hispanic students attending high school. To use Garza’s quote shows that Pinto acknowledges of the success of rising college graduation rates but knows that there are many more goals still to be accomplished.