Dismantling Invisibility in Multiracial College Students: The Impact of Social and Academic Integration on Student Persistence

Dismantling Invisibility in Multiracial College Students: The Impact of Social and Academic Integration on Student Persistence

Ashley D. Spicer-Runnels (Texas A&M University-San Antonio, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-4108-1.ch001
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This study was designed to test Tinto's theory of college student integration by measuring the social and academic integration of multiracial students. Policymakers and public interest have increased pressure on higher education institutions to address low degree completion rates among historically underrepresented racial minority students, leading to a targeted shift to assess and address factors that facilitate or hinder minority college student persistence. The participants for the current study consisted of a convenience sample of college students (n=173) classified as seniors at a mid-sized public four-year institution in Texas. The researcher collected pertinent demographic data and used the Institutional Integration Scale-Revised (IIS-R) to measure social and academic integration. The results of the analyses suggested a statistically significant correlation between being multiracial and social integration, but no significant correlation between being multiracial and academic integration.
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Multiracial individuals represented 3.6% of the U.S. population in 2018, which was a 60% increase in the multiracial population since 2010 (U.S. Census Bureau, 2018). In 2000, the U.S. Census first included a “two or more races” option, which resulted in making data on multiracial individuals more readily available (Rockquemore, Brunsma, & Delgado, 2009). As a result, new multiracial research agendas emerged and attempted to explain the distinctions associated with multiracial individuals (Harris & Sim, 2002; Jones, 2011; Rockquemore et al., 2009; Root, 1992). Higher education was one area in which the research regarding these distinctions was important. Historically underrepresented racial minority students, including multiracial students, have continued to show low degree completion rates when compared to the overall college student population leading to a targeted shift to assess and address factors that facilitate or hinder minority college student persistence (Museus & Quaye, 2009).

Garbarini-Philippe (2010) explained higher education institutions used race and ethnicity data to track retention among the student body and used the data to better understand the strengths and challenges of the student population. Carter (2006) added that unintentional discrimination within the institutional processes negatively affected persistence. The insistence that multiracial students select a single race on official forms led to students feeling invisible and limited in their ability to express their complete identity. Sands and Schuh (2004) explained that challenges related to race surfaced through racial categorization questions that did not provide an appropriate description of a student’s racial identity. In these instances, students instantly felt alienated because the institution could not track students with multiple races and multiracial students were forced to select an identity that differed from their personal beliefs.

One manner in which institutions of higher education adapted to this issue was through their student services departments and programs (Sabharwal, 2005; Wong & Buckner, 2008). Established student services did not meet the needs of the multiracial population because many of the student services offered were based upon racial identification categories that did not include a multiracial option (Garbarini-Philippe, 2010). Although multicultural education has found an established place in college curricula and many school programs, including race-specific student groups and celebrations, these changes were made within the same social constructs that limit self-expression and led to continued limitations in the analysis of factors that influence student persistence.

Tinto’s (1975) theory of student integration emphasized that persistence was an outcome of institutional integration. The introduction of this theory sparked increased demands for evidence related to student learning, development, outcomes, and success indicators (Troxel, 2010). Pascarella and Terenzini (2005) suggested that experiences after enrollment had the greatest impact on persistence, but Singell and Waddell’s (2010) findings suggested that pre-college factors had a greater influence on student persistence. Furthermore, Singell and Waddell (2010) suggested that these factors remained throughout the student’s entire academic career. Various researchers found that student background and academic ability were predictors of student persistence (Jones-White, Radcliffe, Huesman, & Kellogg, 2010; Tinto, 2006). Johnson (2008) quantified the importance of academic ability with evidence that a one-point increase in the first semester GPA increased the odds of persistence by 3.01 times.

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