The Disadvantaged Drop Out: The Administratorís View[i]
The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina
(reprinted from Morrison, J. L.
(1973). Why the disadvantaged drop out: The administrators' view. College
Student Journal, 7(4), 54-56.)
the late 50's the shock of Sputnik forced American educators to gear up their
science programs; in the late 60's the militancy of minorities pressured
educators into establishing programs for the "disadvantaged student."
Today, the demand for such programs in higher education is unequivocal. The
two-year college, and particularly the public two-year college, is an
institution which has been designated to assist those classified as
"disadvantaged" in overcoming their handicaps, be they educational or
cultural, and thereby, to assist them in their academic and social advancement.
are many ways of defining disadvantaged students. For example, the Federal
government has defined such a student as possessing one or more of the following
characteristics: (1) inadequate high school preparation, (2) recipient of
welfare or vocational rehabilitation program benefits, (3) lives in public
housing for the poor, (4) has standard English as a second language, and (5) has
a cultural heritage not sufficiently or accurately represented in the
scientists view disadvantagement in cultural or social terms. Kneller, for
example, describes disadvantaged students as those from the lower classes who
are academically backward, "the second characteristic being generally,
though not always, a consequence of the first."[iii]
More importantly, according to Kneller, the parents of disadvantaged students
have not been able to provide the background and preparation essential for
formal learning which the middle-class parent imparts to his child as a matter
of course. In essence,
disadvantagement refers to the variety of social, economic, and
ethnic-interracial factors which inhibit full-freedom of choice and which
seriously impede an individual's right to obtain upward mobility.[iv]
investigators have defined disadvantaged students in terms of their social
differences when compared to the student body of most schools, their membership
in minority groups, their lack of parental or self-support to enter or attend
college, and their desire and spirit to enter a new situation where there is a
high chance of failure.[v]
the range of characteristics that disadvantaged students represent, however,
almost all of these students come to colleges academically disadvantaged.
Many come from minority groups and have characteristics so different from
the regularly accepted student body that they require special assistance for
this report, therefore, we will focus upon the academically disadvantaged
minority group students. Specifically,
we will examine the perceptions of administrators in public two-year colleges as
to the major reasons for attrition of this particular group of students.
the spring of 1971 a pre-coded questionnaire was developed to gather information
concerning programs of compensatory education in two-year colleges.[vi]
This questionnaire was sent to the chief administrative officer of these
two-year institutions participating in the annual research on "National
Norms for Entering College Freshmen" conducted by the
One item of the survey
instrument listed ten reasons commonly cited in the literature for the attrition
of academically disadvantaged minority group students.
The chief administrative officer of each institution was requested to
indicate the three most important of those listed. As Table
I demonstrates, 48 percent of our respondents listed inadequate finances as
a major reason for attrition, 39 percent listed inadequate emotional stability
or immaturity of students as a major reason, and 37 percent listed inadequate
motivation. It should also be noted
that a large percentage of our respondents also perceive that inadequate
institutional finances (listed by 35 percent of our respondents) and inadequate
academic abilities (listed by 34 percent of our respondents), and the lack of
supportive peer relationships (listed by 28 percent of our respondents) as
important reasons for the attrition of minority group academically disadvantaged
students. It is most interesting to
note that 28 percent of our respondents cited inadequate institutional support
of students as one of the three major reasons of attrition.
Seventeen percent cited inadequacies in administrative staffing as one of
the three major reasons for attrition; and 14 percent cited the lack of parental
support. Only six percent of our
respondents cited the lack of qualified faculty as one of the major reasons for
the attrition of minority group academically disadvantaged students, and none of
our respondents cited disciplinary problems as a cause for attrition.
of the data presented above indicates that administrative officers view the
major causes of attrition among minority group academically disadvantaged as
being inadequate motivation, inadequate student finances, inadequate emotional
stability or maturity, and inadequate academic abilities.
a large percentage of respondents
from these colleges indicated that
there was a lack of
institutional support of
such students and inadequate institutional finances for such programs in their institutions.
should be noted that the factors of motivation, academic ability, lack of
parental support, lack of adequate finances, and "immaturity" are not
only factors often mentioned as reasons for attrition in the literature (and by
our respondents), but are also descriptors of minority group academically
disadvantaged students in the first instance.
Therefore, it is not surprising
that these are given as major causes for attrition of minority group
academically disadvantaged students. What
is noteworthy is the recognition that causes for attrition of minority group
academically disadvantaged students may also be the lack of institutional
support of these students as characterized by inadequate institutional finances,
and inadequately trained administrative and teaching staffs.
Such recognition is encouraging, and indicates that if public two-year
colleges are to adequately perform their role in providing educational
opportunity for those who thus far have had little chance for higher education,
greater effort in terms of energy, financial resources, and, perhaps most
importantly, the support and training of an adequate administrative and teaching
staff is essential.
Partial support for the project from which this page was developed
was provided by the U.S. Office of Education (Contract No. OEC0-70-4283
(399) to the Pennsylvania State Department of Education).
The author also wishes to acknowledge the contribution of Reynolds
Ferrante, graduate student, the Pennsylvania State University, who assisted
in the literature review and questionnaire development of the project.
[ii] Anthony Downs, Who Are the Urban Poor? Revised edition. CED Supplementary Paper, Number 29.
Kneller, George F. Educational
Anthrovology. New York:
John Wiley and Sons, Inc., '1965, p. 147.
Beck, John M., and Richard W. Saxe. Teaching the Disadvantaged Pupil. Springfield,
Illinois: Charles C Thomas,
1967, pp. ix, x.
[v] See, for example, the work of Cross, K. Patricia. "Higher Education's Newest Student." Junior College Journal, 39:1 (September 1968); Egerton, John. Higher Education for High Risk Students. Atlanta: Southern Education Foundation, 1968; and Roueche, John E. Salvage, Redirection or Custody? Washington, D.C.: American Association of Junior Colleges, 1968.
[vi] The resulting report, Compensatory Educalion in the Two-Year College (University Park, Pa.: The Center for the Study of Higher Education) may be obtained upon request from the publisher.
[vii] The rationale for the ACE sample design may be found in the following ACE reports: Creager, John A. General Purpose Sampling in the Domain of Higher Education: ACE Research Reports, Vol. 3, No. 2. Washington, D.C.: American Council on Education, 1968; and Creager, John A. National Norms for Entering College Freshmen 1969: ACE Research Reports, Vol. 4, No. 7. Washington, D.C.: American Council on Education, 1969.