Postsecondary Readiness Initiatives, Their Components, and Their Effect on the Persistence of African American Students Through Four Years of College



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Background: Today's labor market requires a workforce with more knowledge-based skills than previous generations, skills most often obtained through postsecondary education. However, for many low-income African American students, attending and graduating from college may be an unattainable goal. The reasons may stem from significant disparities in terms of college access and support. African American students may be the first in their families to attend college and often lack access to resources, knowledge, and guidance needed to pursue and be successful in postsecondary efforts. Therefore, precollege advising must use a holistic approach to address the barriers to postsecondary success. Purpose: Numerous college and career readiness (CCR) programs exist. The degree of support varies from program to program. However, there are components critical to college readiness. Consequently, an effective program must identify and incorporate those support structures best promoting postsecondary success. This is especially important for African American students because of their unique needs beyond academic preparedness. Yet, little has been documented to specifically address which components should be included in a college readiness program designed to support African American and other under-resourced students. This study aimed to explore those factors that impact postsecondary success and examined the support a specific CCR program provided for its African American students. Methods: Information collected from the program's website and curriculum described the program's characteristics and implementation strategy. Conley’s dimensions of college readiness, the impact of social and emotional learning (SEL) skills, and a review of three college readiness initiatives provided the basis for creating an evaluation tool that included key college readiness components. The tool was designed to capture the presence of college readiness components supported by a selected college readiness program. To capture student data over time, the study employed a quantitative descriptive research design using archival, de-identified student information. This data informed on the effect participation in the program had on the African American participants’ postsecondary outcomes. Results: The researcher-created college readiness evaluation tool (CRET) captured the presence of the college readiness components supported by a specific CCR program in Houston, Texas. The associated rubric assessed the degree of support provided by the program. Findings showed that the program met the CRET criteria for an exemplary rating. Findings from analyses demonstrate the relationship between participation in a CCR program and African American students’ postsecondary outcomes. Conclusion: CCR programs were intended to ensure that low-income, first-generation, underrepresented minority students received support, guidance, and resources necessary to achieve postsecondary success. However, CCR programs experience varying levels of success. The CRET and rubric were created to identify and assess the level of support a CCR program offered to its participants. Findings from this study may help new and existing CCR programs better tailor their CCR support to the specific needs of their students. Moreover, future research should investigate the potential expansion of the CRET to include any other components found to impact college readiness but were not identified in this original design.



College readiness programs, Persistence, Postsecondary education, Low-income students, African American students, Social and emotional learning