Persisting through the inevitable: a qualitative study highlighting the communication and identity experiences of Black male students at predominantly white institutions

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Black male students experience a number of issues related to identity during the persistence process, which have potential to deter them from graduating. Some of these issues include feeling isolated

Black male students experience a number of issues related to identity during the persistence process, which have potential to deter them from graduating. Some of these issues include feeling isolated and lack of access to resources due to their ethnic and/or racial identities. Recent statistics indicate that though there is an increase in college enrollment for Black students, the graduation rate is disproportionate to their enrollment. Using critical race theory, co-cultural theory, and communication theory of identity, this study investigated the role of identity in the persistence of Black male students’ graduation rates. Specifically, the central question was ‘What role, if any, do identity processes play in Black male students' decisions to continue or depart from a Predominantly White Institution?’ In order to answer this question, fifteen first-generation Black male college students were interviewed in order to understand the specific experiences that impacted them in relation to graduation. The study sample included a subset of Black male athletes who were found to have distinct differences in college experiences based solely on their athlete status. The overall results indicate that Black male students have expectations of the persistence process and that their personal identity also plays a significant role in the persistence process. In order to maintain their identities and continue with coursework, Black males enacted persistence strategies that were consistent with an overall goal of graduating. Research findings suggest that Black males must maintain a strong personal identity in order to maintain their personal commitment to graduation and college institutions can support them in this endeavor. Research outcomes also suggest that Black males should have a plan of persistence upon entering college, which is constantly reinforced as a graduation motivator.