Black Male Students’ Perception of their Experience and Purpose in Higher Education Institutions

Date of Award

Spring 2017

Document Type


First Advisor

Rebecca Overmyer-Velazquez


Institutions of higher education, apart from Historically Black Colleges/Universities, in the United States have consistently had low retention of black men. HBCUs have had a higher satisfaction and retention of black men due to the large black presence of students and faculty along with the feeling of support and mentorship from their population. Previous research shows that black women have been steadily obtaining more degrees and keeping a high retention rate in American colleges for the past few decades. Previous research has also emphasized that black men carry a stigma of primarily being student athletes in colleges in America. The wealthiest college institutions in the country have very low black male populations overall and yet represent most their basketball and football programs which makes the most profit for those institutions. Past research has not explored black men’s thoughts on their sense of purpose and their academic and social experiences while enrolled in college. My research attempts to gain a sense of how these men are feeling, to gain insight to these trends of low retention and satisfaction. Is it the structure of these predominately white institutions that pushes black male students to consistently transfer and drop out of school? Do these men share a similar perception of themselves and their purpose in institutions of higher education, and does that affect their retention? By using social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram as a platform to reach out to black students from across the country, 82 black students were surveyed. These 82 black male and female respondents has shown that, despite being satisfied at an HBCU, most black male participants were not involved in any fraternities, clubs, or organizations. This research attempts to gain insight on black males’ perception of their experience and purpose in college by analyzing interviews and focus groups. From a small private liberal arts college institution in Los Angeles County, 6 black male students have been part of 2 separate focus groups, mediated by the researcher. These focus groups consisted of a conversation of three men in each group. Findings in the conversations suggest that these men all study with majors with the intent of making a large sum of money as fast as possible. They feel a pressure to help take care of their families and can raise a family on their own. Most of the men feel conscious of professors/faculty and peers have lower academic expectations of them. The student athletes feel that they are expected to perform less academically than their white peers. Their sport is their sense of community, and seems to be where they feel it the most consistently. Black men in colleges are pressured to prove their capability academically and physically which makes for an exhausting experience. Along with the pressure to quickly be making money by leaving the institution as quickly as possible, perhaps this why these men leave their institutions too early. Predominately white institutions need to outreach to high schools and junior colleges in black communities to diversify their black population. These institutions need to stray away from the stigma that for a black man to have a purpose on a college campus, they need to be a student-athlete for the institution.


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