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Redefining the College Persona: An Examination of Noncognitive Personality Attributes That Influence College Persistence in High-Achieving African American Students
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Much has been written about the college persistence process. Even so, increasing college persistence among commonly underrepresented racial groups has not been easy. To address this challenge, education researchers have collaborated with professionals in sociology, psychology, and economics, in the hope of gaining insight into the complexities of college persistence for these groups. This research is an extension of that work. In this mixed-methods study, noncognitive personality attributes—grit and conscientiousness—were examined as they relate to college persistence in highachieving African American students. The purpose of this study was to determine whether grit and/or conscientiousness predicted college persistence (as measured by grade point average [GPA]) by highachieving African American students and whether these traits were influenced by racial identity and racialized campus experiences. The results were twofold. Quantitatively, both grit and conscientiousness were predictive of college persistence in high-achieving African American students. Grit was predictive of college persistence (GPA) at the commitment indicator level, r^2 =.080, F(1, 2,248) = 14.441, p < .001 (β = .080). One facet of conscientiousness (reliability/responsibility) was predictive, r^2 = .076, F(1, 2,267) = 13.231, p < .0001 (β = .076). Both noncognitive variables were linearly correlated to racial identity (measured by a private and public collective racial esteem scale and identity salience) and racialized campus experiences (measured by a sense of belonging and nondiscriminatory climate). Qualitative data explained how race-related experiences and identity affected student use of each noncognitive variable. The alignment of quantitative and qualitative results provides multiple implications for policymakers, researchers, and educators with regard to strengthening college persistence efforts. Increasing the number of African Americans who complete college is important for the future of the American economy. High-achieving African American students use noncognitive personality attributes in the college completion journey in a very racially nuanced way. Universities that wish to see more African Americans graduate should recognize how these skills function and intentionally nurture their growth so that both grit and conscientiousness can thrive because of the environment, not in spite of it.
African American or Black Students
Lindo Anderson, Anastasia Beverly (2019). Redefining the College Persona: An Examination of Noncognitive Personality Attributes That Influence College Persistence in High-Achieving African American Students. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from