Date of Award


Document Type

Dissertation - NSU Access Only

Degree Name

Doctor of Education


Center for the Advancement of Education


Southwest Missouri State University is a predominately white institution which historically has admitted and retained very few black students. Because of several special programs instituted by the university president, the number of black students enrolled at SMSU is increasing. The campus has a student population of more than 19,000 with the black students making up 1.5 percent of this number. With more and more concern being directed at student retention the issue that attrition has been a problem with all college students including the black students is now being addressed on campus. The study was designed to examine the students’ opinions of the environmental factors on campus and to determine if they are affecting the black students' attitudes and perceptions of their educational experiences. The study attempted to answer two questions; (1) do black students on the SMSU campus, because of their race, experience environmental factors which they perceive as negative, and (2) do black students consider dropping out more frequently than white students? A questionnaire was developed and sent to 280 black students (all of the black students at SMSU) and 1,000 white students who were registered and taking classes at the university. The white students were randomly selected by a computer, which chose every nineteenth name. The white students were also divided by class, with 250 students being taken from each of the four undergraduate classes. A case study design was utilized. The questionnaire was sent to 1280 of the students to ascertain their demographic information and their basic feelings and opinions about their experiences at SMSU. There were a total of 646 useable surveys returned. The data were analyzed by several methods. Descriptive analysis, frequency tables and chi-square were used to determine if correlations existed between race and the students' opinions of the campus environment. Analysis of the data strongly suggested that a difference occurred in the feelings and opinions expressed by the black students and white students. The main conclusion drawn from the study was that certain environmental factors are affecting black students differently than the white students and that these factors are causing the black students at SMSU to consider dropout behaviors more often than the white students. The study recommendations were: 1. Increased institutional funding for retention purposes. 2. Increased personnel for support services. 3. Pre-freshman orientation. 4. Racial awareness seminars for students, faculty and staff. 5. Development of college plans for recruitment, retention and graduation. 6. Increase the number of black faculty at SMSU. 7. Visiting black professors. 8. Black cultural center. 9. Workshops and conferences on black related information for the white students staff and faculty. 10. Increase the number of black organizations including sororities and fraternities. 11. Expand the peer tutor program. 12. Identification of black having academic difficulties during the fourth or fifth week of classes 13. Include more culturally relevant information in the curriculum.

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