College-Going and College-Staying Capital: Supporting Underrepresented Minority Students at Predominantly White Institutions

College-Going and College-Staying Capital: Supporting Underrepresented Minority Students at Predominantly White Institutions

Christy Kuehn
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 31
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2783-2.ch004
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When underrepresented minority (URM) students from high-poverty, high-minority K-12 schools enter college, they often encounter academic, financial, and cultural obstacles in addition to experiencing discriminatory events. This chapter, focusing on the narratives of five URM students, explores the relationships, experiences, and strategies that enabled college-going capital, in addition to the relationships, experiences, strategies, and policies that created college-staying capital for these students at predominantly white institutions (PWI). Utilizing research and the students' experiential knowledge, recommendations are made that supportive teachers, dual enrollment courses, and scholarship programs enable URM students to overcome obstacles upon entering college. Once in college, overcoming cultural differences and discriminatory occurrences was most aided by strong student communities (in the form of Black Student Unions, multicultural clubs, and supportive friendships) and confidence in their racial identity.
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The percentage of 18-24-year olds enrolled in college has shown continual growth since 1970; however, college enrollment is lower among Students of Color than White students. While there is a difference in enrollment percentages, additionally, there is a variance in degree attainment. The racial differences in enrollment and degree attainment has not only persisted since the 1800s, it has steadily grown since 1995 (U.S. Department of Education, 1993; Eberle-Sudré, Welch, & Nichols, 2015; Kenna et al., 2016; Snyder, de Brey & Dillow, 2016). The enrollment difference between White and Black students has held at a near-steady rate of approximately 10% (11.6% enrollment gap in 1970; 9.6% gap in 2014) (Snyder, de Brey & Dillow, 2016). Looking forward, if these gaps persist, 60% of White 25-34-year olds will earn a college degree by 2041, while this same percentage of achievement for Black, Latino, and Native American students would not be achieved until 2060 (Smith, 2018).

American mythology leads some who examine these so-called achievement gaps to blame a lack of effort (Holmes, 2007) or a general deficit in a racial group (Ladson-Billings, 1995b). However, the imbalanced achievement is due instead to structures of institutional racism that have led to educational disenfranchisement.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Cultural Capital: As defined by Yosso (2005) , there are six main cultural assets of marginalized communities: aspirational capital, linguistic capital, familial capital, social capital, navigational capital, and resistant capital.

Counter-Space: Formal or informal spaces, which are safe, race-based places on predominantly white campuses ( McGee & Martin, 2011 ); these spaces can provide a respite from the White world.

Predominantly White Institution (PWI): Any institution that has historically had a majority enrollment of white students and is conducive to white cultural norms.

Representative: When Students of Color, while being racialized, are asked to “speak for” the experience of “their people.” These experiences stand out for Students of Color as specific, often traumatic events, that stay with them for years.

Microaggressions: As defined by Pierce (1995) , microaggressions may seem harmless, but the “cumulative burden of a lifetime of microaggressions can theoretically contribute to diminished mortality, augmented morbidity, and flattened confidence” (p. 281). Students of Color often experience microaggressions at a near-constant level.

Institutionalized Racism: Deeply embedded, “structured inequality” that is present in all social institutions ( Williams, 2012 , p. 42).

White Privilege: The lack of racism experienced by white persons; it is then assumed that all others, regardless of their race or national origin, experience the same non-biased treatment in life, thus white individuals are unaware of the privilege from which they benefit in society ( Boatright-Horowitz, Marraccini, & Harps-Logan, 2012 ).

Underrepresented Minority (URM) Student: Students of Black, Latino, of American Native heritage, who have historically had less access to higher education, thus limiting their representation at higher education institutes.

Implicit Bias: Being unaware of the negative stereotypes one holds against groups in society; therefore, being unaware of how those ideas turn into prejudicial behavior and actions.

Cultural Negotiation: Students of Color are often forced to navigate between two cultures, the one with which they most identify and the majority culture. This is sometimes referred to as “biculturation” and “code switching.”

Counter-Story: Stories that highlight the non-dominant narratives of society ( Bell, 1992 ).

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