According to the U.S. Department of Education (2017), the general Black and Latinx college student populations attending both two-year and four-year universities maintain the highest rates for dropping out of college in comparison to other racial groups on campuses in the United States. A lack of institution-wide and structured culturally enhancing experiences and student health services designed for minority students attending, have been noted as contributors to the higher than average drop-out rates and poor state of well-being among Black male and female college students, especially at Predominantly White Institutions (PWIs) (Thorn & Sarata 1998).
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The factors that overlap with these limited resources include: student housing conditions, funding opportunities, campus underrepresentation, and cultural mistrust (Duncan, 2003).
Diversification of PWIs continues to emerge as a core value statement of various American Universities, from four-year institutions to community colleges, and promoting access to minority students within educational and career paths with historically racial minority underrepresentation (Whittaker & Montgomery, 2015). Brown and Yates (2005) highlight the impact that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had on the entire school system in the United States in regards to granting African Americans the right to educational opportunities that were previously denied to them. These authors mentioned how the ‘forced integration’ of Black students in predominantly white schools would eventually lead to the disparities of treatment toward Black college students attending PWIs. Whether through classroom resources (books, supplies, materials), physical environments (alternative classrooms, living spaces), or campus support services (personal, academic), Black students were not given equal opportunities beyond the legal ability to attend the university (Brown & Yates, 2005).
Due to centuries of laws that were and are primarily designed to withhold human rights from marginalized communities, the negative impact of discrimination in schools, especially towards racial minorities, on student physical and mental health has been cited as a key element that ultimately shape the college experience. The rise in stress and anxiety levels associated with frequently occurring events of discrimination increases the risk for developing various mental health concerns and report low levels well-being (Brown, Morning, & Watkins, 2005). This exposure to insensitivities toward race and cultures have been associated with questions of college campus safety and sense of belonging. This generalized state of poor mental health (anxiety, depression, lack of connectedness) then reveals patterns of perceived helplessness (Cokley et al., 2011). An analysis from Masuda and Latzman (2011) showed that when compared to White college student populations, Black students experiencing mental health issues also exhibit negative attitudes towards their current mental state and seeking the support for treatment. The term that has been conceptualized for this set of negative behaviors is referred to as ‘mental health stigma’ and incorporates the phenomena that has historically tainted the African American community in regards to seeking various forms of medical assistance from health service providers, particularly, outside of their cultural group (McClain et al., 2016).
Dr. Sutton referred to the University of Texas at Austin’s (UT) student population demographics when he mentioned that the poor sense of belonging and stereotype threat that is experienced by Black students on campus could be due to the underrepresentation of the general Black student body compared to Black student-athletes at UT (personal communication, September 27, 2018). At institutions where revenue producing sports are demographically made up of majority African American athletes (football 70% and men’s basketball 80%), a Black college student develops a hyperawareness of the negative stereotypes that are associated with being overrepresented in non-academic spaces (Cokley et al., 2011).
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