UF study: black students give higher grades to black colleges
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Black students attending the nation’s historically black colleges and universities say they make greater strides in a broad range of academic and social areas than their counterparts at predominantly white institutions indicate they attain, a University of Florida study shows.
Students at historically black institutions reported superior gains in intellectual and writing skills, personal and social development, as well as in understanding science and technology, and mastering the arts and humanities, said Lamont Flowers, a UF professor of educational leadership, policy and foundations who conducted the study.
“The findings of this study build on previous research by suggesting that even in the presence of important statistical controls, attending a historically black college or university significantly enhances the academic and social growth of African-American students,” he said.
“Such research is important because it helps to determine how African-American students best learn and develop in ways that will ensure their success not only in college, but after they graduate from college as well,” Flowers said.
The findings are based on survey responses of 1,385 black students who attended one of 11 historically black colleges and universities in the sample and 6,450 black students who attended one of 196 predominantly white institutions included. The data was collected over a 10-year period from the College Student Experiences Questionnaire, which is used by educational institutions to seek information on how students perceive their college experiences.
The survey asks students to rate on a four-point scale how much they learned or developed in each of five areas: science and technology, vocational preparation, intellectual and writing skills, arts and humanities, and personal and social development. Students were asked to rate their gains in each area as “very much,” “quite a bit,” “some” or “very little.” The average survey results from students at the historically black colleges were then compared to those of the respondents at the predominantly white universities.
The only one of the five measures in which the study found no differences between the students’ reported perceptions was in vocational preparation, he said.
“The results of Dr. Flowers’ research are especially exciting considering the growing debate on whether or not there still remains a need for historically black colleges and universities in the education of African American students,” said Sharon L. Holmes, a professor of higher education administration at the University of Alabama.
One reason students may have reported greater progress at historically black colleges and universities is those institutions focus on teaching, Flowers said. In contrast, some predominantly white institutions are devoted largely to research, he said.
“My research also indicates another advantage of these (black) institutions is that they offer more opportunities for faculty-student contact,” Flowers said. “There has been more than 20 years of research supporting the notion that interactions with faculty in and out of class result in positive educational outcomes for students.”
The biggest difference between black students attending black colleges and universities and those at predominantly white institutions in the study was reported in the areas of science and technology, Flowers said. This measure assessed the extent to which students saw themselves progressing during college in “understanding the nature of science” and “understanding new scientific and technical developments.”
The second-largest difference between the two groups was in the intellectual and writing skills category. This assessed students’ perceptions of gains made during college in “writing clearly and effectively” and the “ability to think analytically and logically.”
Flowers’ study did not attempt to determine the reasons there was no significant difference between the two groups on the vocational preparation component. This measure assessed students’ perceptions of how much they had progressed in preparing for a career, specifically “gaining a broad general education about different fields of knowledge” and “gaining a range of information that may be relevant to a career.”
“It might be the case that career development is one educational outcome that both institutional types are pursuing in such a way that results in positive gains for African-American students despite the college racial composition of the institution attended,” he said.
The results of Flowers’ study were published in the May-June issue of the Journal of College Student Development. He continues to study a wide variety of issues relating to the experience of black students at black colleges and universities, and is currently studying how graduates of these two types of institutions fare after college in the job market in terms of occupational status, salary and job satisfaction.
- Cathy Keen, firstname.lastname@example.org, (352) 392-0186
- Lamont Flowers