PERCEPTIONS OF AFRICAN AMERICAN COLLEGE STUDENTS ON THE EFFECT OF STUDENT MENTORSHIP PROGRAMS: A QUALITATIVE STUDY ON THE COLLEGE EXPERIENCES OF MINORITY STUDENTS
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Background: Disproportionate failure and health issues of African American students enrolled at institutions of higher learning has been the focus of much discourse. Studies converge on multiple themes of students having inadequate support systems while documenting their experiences relating to students, faculty and non-academic staff of other races. Purpose: In exploring whether mentorship may have a beneficial effect in reversing the trend on the college success rates of African American students, the perception of full-time African American students on the effect of mentorship on their graduation rate and retention was examined. Methods: The participants are all African American college students in varying disciplines to ensure different experiences. First, analyzing the immediate experiences of African American students who have participated in mentorship programs while attending an institution of higher learning, the study developed a framework of mentorship. Second, examining their perception, the study identified several linkages between these students’ campus experiences and their perception of mentorship. In this phenomenological study, data was collected through semi-structured interviews with eight participants. Data was analyzed through a coding mechanism using Carspecken’s critical ethnographic framework, while the theoretical development was based on Mezirow’s grounded theory approach. Results: Results of the study revealed that subjects believed their advisors and peers were unable to relate to their struggles. Those struggles included experiencing greater stress and receiving disproportionately inadequate lack of support from peers and faculty. Subjects overwhelmingly supported mentorship. They felt the trajectory of their academic and post-college journey would have been significantly better if provided mentoring. Conclusion: Based on the study results, universities could formulate a long-term plan to introduce formal mentorship, where mentors would be given rigorous training for mentorship programs. Finally, a successful implementation of mentorship programs based on this study will go a long way towards alleviating a vexing problem in the American education system.