Social Integration's Effects on Non-Traditional Males in White Institutions

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Two significant problems that college and university teachers face are social and academic disengegement, particularly in settings where the majority of students belong to the dominant race in that society (Rendón, Hope & Associates, 2016). When minorities must attend schools with a large white student body, this presents a serious issue in the United States (PWI). Rendon, Garcia, and Person (2004) claim that the term "student of color" refers to a socially created classification in schools that is frequently used interchangeably with the term "minority" and serves to identify children from the historically underrepresented groups in society. In particular, the term is used in reference to the student of African American, Hispanic, Asian/Pacific Islanders, and American Indian and Alaskan backgrounds (Bailey & Alfonso, 2015). What does being a student of color in a PWI mean to university and college students? According to Tinto (2002), students of color face many challenges when studying in PWIs such as isolation, culture shock, disengagement, tokenism, judgment, and others. Studies indicate that each of these challenges has a significant impact on the rate of attrition of the students if they are combined with the daily problems of college life. Ethic and racial minorities, when studying in PWIs, are likely to feel socially and culturally alienated, which plays a major role in their retention in these institutions (Bailey & Alfonso, 2015). Consequently, when the rate of attrition increases due to some of these challenges, the number of graduates among the minority group decreases relative to their population in the society.

Nevertheless, while many students of color face many challenges that limit their ability to succeed academically in PWIs, a number of them manage to make it in these institutions and achieve their certificates. But a crucial aspect of their persistence is the degree of engagement or integration in both academic and social life in the institution. Studies have shown that social and academic integration has positive relationship with the student success among all students. Nevertheless, students from the underrepresented minorities tend to benefit more from social and academic integration that those from the majority group (Bailey & Alfonso, 2015). For instance, the National Survey of Student Engagement NSEE (2006) found that engagement is positively associated with the desired outcomes for all students, but those from the historically underserved or underrepresented groups have more benefits.

Study Problem

Over the years, the minority African Americans, Latinos/Hispanics, Pacific Islanders, and natives have long been under-represented in American institutions of higher learning. More so, the degree of under-representation is quite high and more significant among the doctoral degree programs, where the majority recipients tend to be whites. In fact, studies show that less than 10% of the annual recipients of doctoral degrees in the country are colored students, leaving the rest 90% to the majority whites (Community College Survey of Student Engagement, 2007). The problem of under-representation in doctoral degree programs is severe for the males than female colored students. One of the major cited reasons behind the under-representation of the non-traditional male students in doctoral degree programs is social and cultural disengagement and lack of integration. In predominantly white institutions, the problem is even more severe. While students of color are able to maneuver through the bachelors programs in PWIs, few are able to make it top doctoral degrees, probably due to some of the problems that face them. Studies have shown that colored women are more likely to earn doctoral degrees compared to their male counterparts. For instance, about 66% of the doctoral degrees received by members of the minority ethnic groups in the country were women, which means that men only receive the remaining 34% (National Center for Educational Statistics, 2008). This disparity is quite large and requires investigation to determine why it is so (National Center for Educational Statistics, 2008). One of the most cited reasons behind the low number of degrees received by the colored students, and more so their males, is the fact that lack of social integration has more detrimental effects on males than females among the minorities studying in white majority universities (National Center for Educational Statistics, 2008). Furthermore, it should be noted that the majority doctoral programs are traditionally predominate whites, which means that the colored males are at a great disadvantage. Nevertheless, the lack of social and academic integration is not the absolute reason behind the disparity. In addition, lack of integration is one of the suggested reasons that needs further investigation.

Study rationale

The near absence of non-traditional male students of doctoral degrees in predominantly white institutions is a social problem because the current and future trends suggest that most jobs will require good education as one of the requirements for employment. In addition, for the society to balance, there must be a reasonable balance between the minority and majority and males and females in terms of educational achievement to ensure that every group is well represented in all aspects of the society. As such, if the current trend continues, the minority males will have a disadvantage in a society where most people will be educated and qualified to take major job opportunities. This study is based on the concept of equal education for the diverse citizens.

Research Question

To address the identified research problem, the proposed study will use data from the field to answer the following questions:

What is the impact of social integration for non-traditional males at Predominantly White Institutions?

Is there a difference by race?

The proposed research will attempt to test the following hypotheses:

Alternative Hypothesis (H1): There is a statistically significant difference in social integration between African American, Latino American and White American non-traditional males at Predominantly White Institutions.

Null Hypothesis (Ho): There is no statistically significant difference in social integration between the African American, Latino American and White American non-traditional males at Predominantly White Institutions.

Purpose of the study

The purpose of carrying out the proposed study is to explore the impact of social integration on the retention and attrition of non-traditional students in doctoral degree programs in PWIs. Student integration and engagement experiences have a significant impact student success. Nevertheless, the assessment of social interaction in university and college environment requires adequate efforts through studies. Moreover, it is worth noting that the existing knowledge about the impact of social integration for non-traditional doctoral degree students in PWIs says very little about the great disparity between the male and female achievers, yet it is clear that males have been greatly disadvantaged in this area. Therefore, the proposed study will attempt to attempt to address the question on whether social integration has a positive impact on this group of non-traditional students and whether it is a potential solution to the problem.


For several decades, student integration, engagement, and lack of them have been studied, with several researchers provided several suggestions on their impact and the need to solve the large disparity in academic achievement between the majority and minority groups in the US. Attrition of non-traditional students, especially in doctoral programs, has been a major concern for researchers (Bailey & Alfonso, 2015). In early 1980s, it was found that African American males were the most affected group when it comes to attrition among all college students, regardless of the level. To fight this problem, studies have been developed to examine the situation, and most have shown that academic success in doctoral programs lies in the student ability and willingness to socially and academically adjust to the life and environment of the institution (Bailey & Alfonso, 2015). It has been shown that when students are able to positively adjust to the life and environment of the institution, they are likely to remain in their program and eventually graduate with the desired grades.

According to Williams (2016), social integration is the existence of relationships between members of a given institution, community or society as evidenced by observable social networking. In institutions of higher learning, student integration refers to the involvement of learners with other members of their school, including colleagues, faculty, members, department members, and members of other areas within the school environment. A quantitative study by Tinto (2002) found that students who interact with faculty members outside the class as well as with colleagues inside and outside the class have a high probability of retention as well as graduation with desired grades. In an empirical study with student samples, Kuh (2001) found that students who develop positive relationships with faculty members as well as colleagues had powerful influences on personal social and academic experiences. In addition, Kuh stated that time and energy that students normally devote to academic activities as well as how they perceive different aspects of the institutional environment greatly facilitates learning.

Scholarly work shows that non-traditional students in PWIs are the best group that should be molded to ensure that they achieve from social and academic integration, which has been suggested as a possible and potential solution to the high attrition rate. Most of the researchers that have attempted to examine this area have applied Vincent Tinto’s interactionalist theory. As such, it is important to review what the theory states and why it is important to guide studies on social integration in higher education.

Tinto’s interactionalist theory, developed in 1970s and reviewed several times in the years that followed, states that whether a student persists or drops out of school is determined by the degree of an individual’s academic and social interaction. According to this theory, the interaction evolves over time as both commitment and integration interact (Braxton, Milem, & Sullivan, 2014). Tinto further argues that measuring the level of academic integration requires one to consider such factors as grade performance, personal development, academic-self-esteem, subject enjoyment, identification with academic norms and values as well as a person’s role as a student in that institution. On the other hand, social integration is measured by considering such factors as the number of friends a student has in that institution, personal contact with academics and enjoyment of a person for being in the institution.

Tinto was careful to differentiate between the types of attrition. In particular, the theory shows that attrition due to other reasons than voluntary leaving is not one of the aspects needed when determining the relationship between dropping out and the level of integration.

In other studies following his initial work, Tinto has added additional features in the interactionalist theory. In particular, Tinto’s 1993 study developed a relatively new model in which four primary conditions essential to engagement and attrition were added- support, involvement, feedback, and expectations (Braxton, Milem, & Sullivan, 2014). According to this model, students are likely to remain in the program and be engaged in a setting where there is a clear expectation of their succession. Every student wants to know what to expect and the requirements of succeeding. As such, the university and the respective departments are urged to hold their students to high expectations. Secondly, students are likely to be engaged if they have the pedagogical experience that encourages academic as well as social support (Braxton, Milem, & Sullivan, 2014). Again, it is the role of the institution and its departments to ensure that academic support is provided and carefully administered by the administration and that it is aligned with the classroom instruction (Tinto, 2013). Third, students who are actively engaged with the university life, colleagues, faculty, staff, and activities are likely to be remain in the academe and graduate with the desired grades. Lastly, Tinto’s model shows that early academic warning systems as well as mid-semester or midterm grade reporting are important since they can be provided to assist the learners complete their academic journey with success (Braxton, Milem, & Sullivan, 2014).

Various researchers have used Tinto’s model to describe the reason why the non-traditional students have a higher attrition rate than their white colleagues. In a quantitative study, Defour and Hirsch (1990) found that African American students with high degree of social integration into their programs were less likely to drop out of school. A study by Gardner (2005) also found that doctoral students were more likely to graduate with desired grades if social involvement was presence. Additional studies by Braxton, Milem, and Sullivan (2014) have also found that these concepts and observations are common to other minority groups, including the Latinos, Hispanics, and Native Americans. It is suggested that male students from the traditionally underrepresented groups could also benefit from social and academic integration and their attrition rate reduced significantly.

Proposed Methodology

Research Design

The proposed study will investigate the factors that cause attrition rates among the male students from the non-traditional groups taking doctoral degrees in PWIs. Specifically, the study will use a sample of students taking psychology in an American university that is predominantly white. Consequently, it is important to use a quantitative approach in order to examine the impact of social and academic integration on doctoral degree. A survey approach will be adopted for use in data collection because it is easy to conduct and allows one to complete a research within a short time. As such, survey questions that elicit quantitative data will be developed and sent to the students.


The independent variable is social integration while the dependent variables will be retention and attrition rates. In this case, the degree and impact of social integration is measured by the rates of retention or attrition.

Samples and Consenting

The study will work with a group of African American, Native American, and Hispanics/Latino male students taking doctoral degree of psychology in an American university. When selecting the samples, the students will be given adequate information on the type, nature, and process of the study as well as the purpose and use of the eventual findings. They will be given survey questionnaires in which this information will be given, with a chance to either accept or reject being a participant. They will be informed that their names and other identities as well as crucial information will not be disclosed to anybody apart from the researcher. Moreover, the researcher will obtain permission and validation from the relevant board within the university.


The first step will be to obtain permission from the university to use their students as the study sample. The proposal will then be submitted to the university’s Institutional Review Board for approval. After approval, the researcher will contact the students through emails and phone calls seeking to have them join as participants. Once they accept, the researcher will send them the the survey questionnaire. Survey Monkey, the online software for survey making, will be utilized to distribute the questions to the students along with the consent forms. Students will be given three weeks to fill the survey questions and submit the results through their emails. After they submit the surveys, the researcher will go through them to determine those that are valid for use in data analysis and those that are to be rejected.

Data analysis

Data obtained from the survey will be statistical in nature and the Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) software version 16 will be used for analysis. The idea is to use one-way Anova to determine relationships and test the hypotheses.


Bailey, T., & Alfonso, M. (2015). Paths to persistence: An analysis of research on program effectiveness at community colleges. Indianapolis, IN: Lumina Foundation for Education.

Braxton, J. M., Milem, J. F., & Sullivan, A. S. (2014). The influence of active learning on the college student departure process: Toward a revision of Tinto’s theory. The Journal of Higher Education, 71(5), 569–590.

Community College Survey of Student Engagement (2007). Committing to student engagement: Reflections on CCSSE’s first five years. Austin, TX: University of Texas at Austin, Community College Leadership Program.

National Center for Educational Statistics. (2008). Total fall enrollment in degreegranting institutions, by race/ethnicity of student and type and control of institution: Selected years,1976 through 2005. Retrieved

Rendón, L. I., Garcia, M., & Person, D. (Eds.). (2004). Transforming the first year of college for students of color (Monograph No. 38). Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina, National Resource Center for the First-Year Experience and Students in Transition.

Rendón, L.I, Hope, R.O. & Associates. (2016). Educating a new majority: transforming America’s educational system for diversity. San Francisco, CA: JosseyBass Publishers.

Tinto, V. (2002). Stages of student departure: Reflections on the longitudinal character of student leaving. The journal of higher education, 59(4), 438-455.

Tinto, V. (2013). Leaving college: Rethinking the causes and cures of student attrition. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Williams, C. G. (2016). Role models and mentors for young black administrators, faculty and students at predominantly white campuses. Retrieved from _retention_mentoring/

April 13, 2023

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