Studies reveal that minority groups are underrepresented in PWIs despite the existence of efforts by staff and faculty to close this traditional gap. Indeed, there is a large difference between the percentages of the number of students registering and that graduating after college among the minorities compared to the majority groups. Consequently, this is an indication that more students from the minority than the majority groups drop out of college. Therefore, an equity audit is necessary to establish the issues that inhibit college graduation of most minority students. In addition, the audit needs to determine the effective methods of preparing, supporting, and retaining these historically underrepresented students in predominantly white institutions (PWI) such as the University of Delaware. Specifically, this research seeks to determine all the challenges that lead to high dropout rates among minority students and develop strategies that prepare and support the students for success.
Purpose of the Study
This study seeks to determine the challenges that prevent students from minority groups college graduating and to identify the current approaches for supporting, preparing, and retaining these groups of students. To accomplish this study, the research addresses the question, ‘whether, why, and how do the administration and staff view support provided for the minority students to improve their retention and graduation rates? Further, the study question is, are the existing supportive practices and pedagogies effective for this group of students?
University of Delaware (UD) is a private-public research university located in Newark, Delaware. Founded in 1743, UD is one of the oldest universities in the country and the largest university in the state of Delaware. UD is considered a large institution with its main campus in Newark hosting 18,135 undergraduate students enrolled in 2019 (IRE).
Demographics: The UD’s Institutional Research and Effectiveness (IRE) provides the demographical statistics at the institution. The student population as 2019 was Whites 68% (12,485), African American 5.4% (985), Hispanic 8.4% (1,529), Asian 5.3% (958), Native American 0.1% (19), International students 5.6% (1,016) and Other 6.3% (1,143).
A quantitative design was used with statistical data collected from UD and three other universities. The main setting was the University of Delaware (UD), Newark Campus. The participants were faculty and staff members- three males (head of faculty, and two deans of the college), and a female director of programs. Data collection was accomplished using non-probability interviews with the selected participants and a sampling technique. Semi-structured interviews were conducted using Zoom and included 10 standardized and open-ended questions.
Equity Audit Instrument Description
The equity audit instrument is a data comparison tool that shows changes in graduation rates with changes in minority staff and faculty members. It will use MS Excel data analysis software to compare data from the UD’s different years as available in the public domain. The application allows for a visual representation of the information through tables, charts, and graphs, making it easier for the interpreter. Excel also allows the manipulation of vast amounts of data with error-free accuracy and precision. Data will be gathered from online sources such as institution websites and various government or media reports for at least three consecutive years.
The tool has five variables- university, year, identifier, race, and gender. The university variable will hold the name of each of the three institutions to be compared. The year variable will hold values for the three years whose data is used. The identifier variable will hold identifications for students or faculty members. Race and gender variables will represent the races and gender of the students and faculty members, respectively.
PIECED Framework: Elements of both CSP and FoK are used to develop instrument for analysis. CSK incorporates students’ culture in learning and helps sustain cultures (Paris, 2012). It emphasizes that the students’ cultural backgrounds are an asset to the learning process. Also requires instructors to understand each student’s cultural backgrounds and use that knowledge in teaching and leadership. FoK represents students’ knowledge- worldviews, experiences, and background knowledge in education and culture (Kiyama & Ross-Aguilar, 2017)
Data Analysis Brief
Deployment of the instrument will involve data searching from online sources, and no further resources are necessary. The data will then be populated into the analysis tool for processing. Interpretation will incorporate the generation of visuals such as graphs and charts to show trends, differences, and similarities. The years of the audit will be from 2017 to 2019 to ensure the availability of data. While more up-to-date statistics would portray the actual situation at the time of equity audit, data availability is a hindrance.
Graduation Rates in the UD
The data analysis shows that enrollment has increased for all races since 2017 in the UD. Over 80 percent of white students have graduated in the three years. Asian students maintained 70 percent rates. Native Americans have less than 100 individuals joining the university and only about half graduating. International students have a relatively high rate of graduation, ranging from 70 to 88 percent. Multiethnic students maintain a slightly above-average rate in graduating rates.
Graduation vs. Faculty Diversity
In 2017, the university employed 3,119 faculty members, out of which 80.89% were white, 8.14% Asian, 6.06% Black, 2.66% Hispanic or Latino, 0.32% Native Americans such as Hawaiian and Indians, 0.61% multiethnic groups, and 1.31% international members. During 2018, all ethnic groups increased their percentage in the institutions, except Native Americans, who occupied 0.28% of the 3200 faculty members. In 2019, all the minority groups increased their share in faculty except Native Americans, who maintained their number but decreased the percentage to 0.27%.
Asians had a higher rate than whites did. In addition, Blacks or African Americans had the lowest graduation rates, reading below 50 percent for all three years. Multiethnic groups improved graduation rates drastically over the period to rise from 47% to 58%. Although white faculty members are predominant, the remaining percentage is almost evenly spread across the minority groups, except for the multiethnic group, which remained below 1% for the entire analysis period. Members of the Native American group declined from 1.52% to 0.92 by 2019.
The results of data analysis support the existing literature that cites underrepresentation of faculty and students in PWI. Belongingness is built by the university environment and experiences, which include the presence of diverse staff and faculty (Lindsey et al., 2019). Students who do not feel a sense of belonging may not to return to the university the next year or semester. The campus climate creates discomfort to the minority students. The findings from data analysis show that the PWI have predominantly white members of faculty, which shows a trend that most likely spreads across the staff members.
Students lack support from individuals they resonate with, as found in the data analysis. Clark (1972) identifies faculty members, programs, and student subcultures as essential elements of a saga. In this relationship, senior faculty members reserve the most influence, followed by programs and then students. Minority students may lack the motivation to connect with white faculty members due to cultural differences.
The research found that a positive correlation exists between the variables as institutions with lower diversity indices reported low college graduation rates among minority students and vice versa. Student’s perception of fitting into the campus environment is significantly determined by ethnic diversity (Eakins & Eakins Sr., 2017). The results show that positive or negative changes in ethnic diversity resulted in accompanying changes in graduation. Universities with higher diversity, such as the NDU, reported higher graduation levels than UD.
The PIECED framework emphasizes students’ culture and funds of knowledge. Although many studies suggest that instructors and faculty members must learn their students’ culture and develop cultural competence, having more diverse teams of staff and faculty will be more effective and enhance these learning processes (Kiyama & Rios-Aguilar, 2017). FoK even suggests that early childhood teachers visit their students’ homes to learn and incorporate culture into the classroom. Bridging the ethnic diversity gap between learners and faculty is suggested as the most effective method to bring students’ culture into lectures and understand their funds of knowledge.
Organizational Change Plan
The primary aim of the organizational change plan is to diversify the UD environment, including faculty and the student body. Critical steps for the plan include the creation of an enabling environment or campus culture, hiring and admission of faculty and students from minority groups, retaining these learners and faculty members, and maintaining the new diverse culture through continued efforts.
The findings of this study addressed the research question by providing a better understanding of how the institutions’ administration sees support being provided for minority students, and further, suggested what is still necessary to foster retention and graduation. Connection, engagement and the learning environment were deemed as critical factors in supporting minority students and It is evident supportive practices stemming from leadership are vital for providing them with an opportunity to overcome barriers.
Additional research is required in order to facilitate and implement an actionable plan, in which This study provided foundation of knowledge for the larger scale research to be expounded in my Dissertation. Most importantly, additional research will include exploring the perspectives of the students themselves, amplifying their voice to better understand their requirements for an equitable and inclusive learning environment where they feel supported and valued at their learning institution.
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