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Shayla Pink

UWRT 1102
Thomas
19 November 2015
Support the Students
When you hear the acronyms HBCU and PWI combined with words such as retention
rates and college prep programs there isnt much that comes to mind. This may be because some
people just dont know what these things individually mean so how could people understand how
these things can relate to one another. In short, this combinations of words and acronyms apply
to the graduation and success of African American students in universities or colleges. The idea
that African American students are struggling when it comes to finishing college is a fact that is
more known than anything else pertaining to higher education. Now the focus is how it can be
made possible for African American students to be successful in colleges and universities. One
way that universities can make it more possible for its African American students to be
successful is for universities to provide programs that prepare students for college and mentoring
opportunities that allow them to learn about their resources.
College itself is a culture shock to students because it is a new environment and students
are given a lot of freedom and responsibilities. For an African American student going to a PWI
there is an even bigger change to what they may be accustomed to. I know personally when I
came to UNC Charlotte I was very overwhelmed by all the different types of people that I was
surrounded by along with the normal changes I had to experience. My high school was diverse
but it was mostly minorities so I was somewhat out of my comfort zone when I went to my

student orientation. I was able to handle it a little bit better because I decided to do UTOP and
that kept me from feeling like I was being thrown to the wolves. Having college transition
programs allow for students to feel like theyre being eased into the many changes of becoming a
college student.
There are many factors to consider when this topic is discussed. The idea of what is the
better school for African American students is the first thing always covered. The argument of if
Predominately White Institutions (PWIs) or Historically Black Colleges and Universities
(HBCUs) are better for the education of African American students. Studies have shown that in
2014 39.5% of African American students graduated from PWIs after six years compared to the
35% from HBCUs. There are many details that can contribute to these findings. When the
incoming freshman class was compared between certain HBCUs and PWIs it was shown that
PWIs have incoming freshman that have higher GPAs, SAT scores and ACT scores. Student
preparedness is something that should always be taken into consideration when graduation rates
are compared. If a student is not really ready to go into college then how can they find success?
Other topics covered when discussing African American students is enrollment and Affirmative
Action. In an article done by Ben Cassleman affirmative action, demographics and educational
attainment are covered and applied to a students success. Affirmative action is the national
policy favoring those that tend to suffer from discrimination especially in relation to education or
employment. This is a small deciding factor for how students can get into a university but it is
usually based on income contrary to the belief that it is based on race. When Cassleman was
covering demographics he was more talking about the actual students and where they came from.
Again, enrollment is not important when talking about the higher education of African
Americans, what is important is how they finish and how prepared they are for college. That is

where educational attainment comes in, educational attainment is how much school a student
finished.
Some individuals believe that HBCUs are more suitable for African American students
because it provides the student with an identity and provides them with more comfort so they
may be more willing to join clubs. In a blog post by Dr. Ray Von Robertson Ph. D he gave many
reasons on why he believes that HBCUs may be better for Americas African American youths.
One reason that he gave was how the persistence of racial incidents on PWI campuses can
affect the psyche of the African American students so that they strive to gain token white
acceptance. This point alone makes the argument of how to better the educational experience of
an African American student better and more productive does not fully rely on the type of school
that a student attends. If a student knows their resources and they are aware that the university
that they attend will help them succeed then how many people that arent their race they are
surrounded by becomes obsolete.
When speaking about African Americans at PWIs there are some other factors that need
to be taken into account. African Americans face some issues that may hinder them from
reaching out on campus. In a study done by Clutch where African American students were asked
what issues they face on campus it was said that racial insensitivities such as white fraternities
wearing black face can cause anxiety for African American students. Another problem students
have is African American students believe that they are defined by racial stereotypes so they may
feel judged by their fellow students for things such as their dialect and accents. Students have
said that if they do not feel comfortable in the classroom it hinders them from participating and
without participating in a class a student cannot thrive.

In reality, there are many things that make an HBCU different from a PWI. PWIs get
more funding from both alumni and endorsements when compared to HBCUs. Another
difference is how the faculty behaves on a HBCU campus and on a PWI campus. On a HBCU
campus there is more individualized focus on the students and their wellbeing. On a PWI campus
students must seek out their own mentors, resources and assistance in anything that they need. So
for an African American student that chooses to attend a PWI over a HBCU how can they find
success? Campuses such as PWIs tend to create programs for minority students that assist them
in transitioning to college, giving them mentors, and proving them with opportunities to become
involved on campus. For example, at UNC Charlotte there is the Multicultural Academic Service
office that provides programs mostly for minorities that provides students with a smooth
transition to college.
For African American students getting into college isnt what should be the focus
anymore. Graduation is what really matters. All students at any orientation they attend are told
that in order to be successful one has to be involved in some way on campus. At a PWI an
African American student may feel that their participation may be limited to historically Black
Greek letter organizations and Black Student Associations. This should not be the case and the
only way that would be able to change is if new students are told that they can do whatever they
want and it is also proven in the on-campus culture that such ideas are not realistic. Mentors are
proven to produce more successful students and students have said that having a mentor has
made them feel more comfortable. I have some mentors on UNC Charlottes campus and I
honestly do feel a lot better moving forward with anything either club wise or academically
because I know that my mentors will provide me with good advice and may even experience
some things with me.

Mentors are a very important factor when considering success for individuals. I was able
to experience this first hand this summer at UNC Charlotte when I did the University Transition
Opportunity Program (UTOP). This is a five and a half week program where incoming freshman
take 3 classes and live on campus with about 13 mentors. The mentors are paid and they live on
the same floor as their mentees. This was a good experience for students because it not only gets
them prepared for the transition from high school to college but it also allows the students to
network and make long-term friends. This was beneficial to me because I had a mentor that had
the same major as me and grew up in Charlotte just like I did so he was able to give me a lot of
good advice concerning my major choice and what I was going to expect in my next few years of
college.
UNC Charlotte is not the only university that has this theory that providing students with
an opportunity to gain mentors and get a head start on college is one way that they can help with
graduation rates. At North Carolina Central University which is an HBCU in Durham, North
Carolina there is a program named Aspiring Eagle Academy. In this program incoming freshman
are assigned a mentor, take 3 classes and live on campus. Jamari Timmons who participated in
this program this last summer said Aspiring Eagle Academy, This program helps you get
acclimated to campus and you have a family environment. The fact that two different types of
schools have programs that are very much similar to each other proves that the idea proposed by
Dr. Robertson earlier is not fully true. Both schools acknowledge that providing mentors for its
students is a huge contributor to students success.
College transition programs allow for students to feel more comfortable on campus and it
provides them with opportunities to further their involvement with clubs and organizations.
Since I have graduated from UTOP this summer I have been given many opportunities to be

involved on campus. This semester I was able to volunteer to take middle school students on a
campus tour and I continuously receive emails from the director of UTOP and from members of
the MAS office about opportunities on campus. My mentors are also very involved on campus,
some are RAs, tutors, involved in Greek life and in many different clubs and organizations. This
allows me to feel comfortable about joining a club and I can get some advice about anything I
would want to do on campus. Some of my fellow students from UTOP that I graduated with are
also very involved on campus, many have jobs on campus, are in clubs and a few just became
Orientation Counselors for the upcoming summer. If you were to go to the library one night it
wouldnt be a surprise if you saw many UTOP graduates with their mentors studying. Thats
what the point of college prep programs are though, they provide students an opportunity to get
ahead in college and to thrive.
Programs like these are usually minority based but there are other races that can benefit
from them. The idea that knowing your resources and having a strong support system while you
are in a new place is very important to someones success. These programs may have some
people against them because they may see it as a cost that may not be worth paying. Retention
programs may be expensive and they may cause the budget to stretch a little thin but the end
result is worth it. These programs allow for the universities to have students that actually finish
on time and have good grades.
What a student does to make the most out of their college experience is the most
important aspect of their success at a university. The main focus that people should have about
what school a student chooses to attend is how they can become a well-rounded individual and
how they can be contribute their ideas to society after they graduated. This can be done through
the education of the students about ways that they can get involved and their resources. A

university can do this by telling the students at orientations and seminars about clubs and
volunteer opportunities that they can do.
The only way that universities and colleges can help its African American students do
better when it comes to graduating on time and being involved on campus is if they continue to
provide assistance to them. This can be done by more education of resources and offices on
campus that are dedicated to providing a strong support system and sense of community for its
African American students. This could apply more to PWIs than HBCUs because HBCUs tend to
be smaller and the faculty is more focused on the wellbeing of their students. When I asked
Jamari Timmons about how the faculty is at NCCU he stated that Professors really care about
you, if you need assistance or help they are there. Personally at UNCC I dont feel the same,
most professors are more likely to tell you hit up the tutoring offices and to talk to your fellow
students about it. It is really easy for a student to just float around and to get lost in everything
that is college. In order for that to not happen a student needs to create their own structure and
sense of belongingness so they can feel comfortable to reach out.
Although college may not be for everyone for those that do decide to take that path they
have a long road ahead of them. For an African American student they may come from a
different background than their fellow peers no matter where they go. The thing that a student
needs to be made aware of is how they can find their place and find success. Everyone needs
some sort of help when they are going through their four or more years of schooling. How to find
that help may be very frustrating and confusing but once you find it the issues you may have may
become more manageable. This help can come from tutors, professors, fellow students and from
mentors. By having a sense that there are people that have your best interest in heart and those

that may have experienced what you are feeling and can now guide you is the best feeling to
have.
I am an African American student that attends a PWI, I learned about UTOP on accident.
That was the best thing I couldve done in my entire college career. Because I did this program I
felt prepared and I am able to better handle any problems that I may and have experienced in my
time at UNC Charlotte. Now I feel that in order for other students like me to be successful and to
do their best while they are in college is to be told about programs on campus that can give them
mentors and a sense of community. I think that if a university doesnt have a transition program
or their counterparts they should get one because these programs are made to produce students
that are successful and involved.

References
Johnson, Lakitta. "The Benefits of a Comprehensive Retention Program for African
American Students at a Predominately White University." Interdisciplinary Journal of
Teaching and Learning 3 (2013): n. pag.
Casselman, Ben. "Race Gap Narrows in College Enrollment, But Not in Graduation."
FiveThirtyEight. N.p., 30 Apr. 2014. Web. 26 Oct. 2015.
Robertson, Ray V., Ph.D. "When White Is Not Always Right: The Experience of Black
Students at Predominantly White Institutions." Web log post. Black Agenda Report.
N.p., 13 Dec. 2011. Web. 27 Oct. 2015.
<http://www.blackagendareport.com/content/when-white-not-always-rightexperience-black-students-predominantly-white-institutions>.
Gasmen, Marybeth. "The Changing Face of Historically Black Colleges and
Universities." Encyclopedia of African American Society (2005): n. pag. Web. 2 Nov.
2015.
Britt, Brandon J. "African-American Male Inclusion, Involvement, Perception and
Achievement at Predominantly White Institutions." McNair Scholars Research
Journal 7.1 (2014): 19+. 2014. Web. 27 Oct. 2015.
Jones, Jaleesa. "Viewpoint: HBCU vs. PWI Debate Misses the Real Point of Higher
Education." USA TODAY College. N.p., 01 June 2014. Web. 28 Oct. 2015.
<http://college.usatoday.com/2014/06/01/viewpoint-hbcu-vs-pwi-debate-misses-thereal-point-of-higher-education/>.
Gedeon, Kimberly. "Black Students In Predominately White Institutions Struggle With
Internal Battles." MadameNoire RSS. N.p., 29 July 2013. Web. 05 Nov. 2015.