The Significant Gap in Degree Attainment between White and BAME Students

Research reveals that there exists a significant gap in degree attainment between white students and the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) students. This difference in attainment has been attributed to the poor performance among BAME students at the undergraduate level. On average, the BAME students score one standard deviation below the white students, in most of the tests given at the undergraduate level. Most scholars have conducted studies in order to investigate the difference in degree attainment between the white and BAME students. Studies have attempted to investigate the reasons for this significant gap that exists between white students, and BAME students. This difference has been attributed to the family structure, socioeconomic status and poverty.

It is evident that the graduation rates of white students are normally higher, as opposed to, the graduation rates of BAME students in most institutions of higher learning. One of the factors that has been attributed to the low attainment of BAME students is the racial climate. It is argued that the racial climate in most institutions of higher learning is normally favorable for the white students, as opposed to, the BAME students. Most institutions of higher learning do not concentrate on creating a nurturing environment that would enhance the retention of BAME students, and enhance degree attainment. It is thought that most institutions of higher learning have never offered a friendly environment for BAME students to learn. The rising racial incidents in institutions of higher learning have normally led to increased dropouts among BAME students. Most institutions of higher learning are normally sensitive towards the admission of BAME students. This has made most BAME students to feel unwelcomed in such institutions. They, therefore, never concentrate on their performance, but on the racial difference between them and the white students. The feeling of being racially different from the white students has led to increased belief among the BAME students that they cannot perform.

The lack of place orientation and retention of BAME students in institutions of higher learning has also led to a significant gap in degree attainment between white students and BAME students. The lack of place orientation has made it difficult for students to adapt to the cultures in most white campuses. It is thought that to reduce this gap in degree attainment between white and BAME students, institutions should put in place mentoring programs for BAME students. The placement of strong student organizations for BAME students is a strategy that can help to foster a sense of belonging among BAME students in institutions of higher learning. This can lead to increased motivation among the students, therefore, reducing the gap in degree attainment.

Most BAME students, who join institution of higher learning in the United States, face difficulties in coping up with the curriculum difference. This is because some of the BAME students come from countries with different educational systems. This difficulty in adapting to the curriculum difference in the institutions of higher learning has led to a significant gap in degree attainment between the two groups. For example, some institutions may be oriented towards scientific fields where BAME students have always had a small presence. It is thought that in most high-powered institution of higher learning BAME students have been made to feel uncomfortable by the white faculty. This is because the administrators have had persistent beliefs that BAME students never have the intellectual capacity to succeed in some of the disciplines offered at the institutions. This has led to increased dropout rates by BAME students, therefore, increasing the gap in degree attainment between the two groups.

The other significant factor that has contributed to the increased gap in degree attainment between white and BAME students concerns family wealth and financial aid. Most BAME students, who enroll in colleges in the United States, are never in a position to graduate because of increased student loan debts. Studies reveal that round 69% of BAME students are never in opposition to graduate because of the debts. This is in comparison to a population of 43% of white students who never graduate because of financial reasons. College education normally costs a lot of money. It is not just the large outlays for tuition, travel and books, however, being in college normally means that BAME students have to be out of the work force for around four years. The difficulty of coping without finances has normally caused most BAME students to drop out in order to search for money. These increasing college costs are among the factors that have increased hardships for BAME increasing the gap in degree attainment between the two groups.

Other than the financial pressures that have led to increased dropout rates among BAME students, it is also argued that family ad cultural issues among BAME students have played a significant role in increasing the gap. Invariably, one of the critical problems that has been experienced is that most of the BAME students enter institutions of higher learning with inadequate ambition, academic credentials and poor study habits. These factors make it difficult for BAME students to perform in college. This implies that they keep on repeating, something that makes most of them give up on learning, hence they dropout. Family and cultural issues among BAME students have also increased the gap in degree attainment between the two groups. Most families of the BAME students choose for the students the areas they pursue while in college. Most parents of BAME students normally prefer that their children pursue some traditional professional areas. The families have had a lot of influence on the fields that their children pursue. For example, most of parents of the BAME students have normally preferred that their children undertake courses in medicine or law. However, most white students have always chosen the field they want to pursue based on their personal liking. This has normally led to better performance of the white students, as opposed to, the BAME students, therefore, increasing the gap in degree attainment between the two groups.

Research methodology

The qualitative methods used in conducting this research include in-depth interviews, participant observations and the use of focus groups. The three methods were suited for obtaining the different types of data that were essential for the research. The interviews were useful in investigating the significant gap in degree attainment between the two groups in an in depth manner. They helped with the discovery of how both groups of students felt about the gap in degree attainment between them. The significant gap in degree attainment is a sensitive topic that most students might not have felt free to discuss in focus groups. However, the interviews made the students feel free to air their opinions on the topic. They also helped in adding the human dimension to some of the data that have been produced by different researchers. Some of the issues that the interviews addressed were reasons for poor performance among BAME students, reasons for increased dropouts among BAME students. How institutions of higher learning have contributed to the significant gap in degree attainment between the two groups. Focus groups in the different institutions of higher learning were also used in conducting the research. This involved an interaction between BAME and white students in the different institutions. This helped in increasing the levels of participation between the participants providing more information for the research.

The quantitative methods of research employed in this research included the use of questionnaires. Secondary data from different studies that have been conducted were also used in conducting the research.

Some of the questions that were asked in the questionnaires include:

  1. What are the reasons for low degree attainment among most BAME students?
  2. What are the reasons for increased degree attainment among most White students?
  3. What are the primary factors that have contributed to the increased gap in degree attainment between the two groups?
  4. What strategies can be used in reducing the gap between the two groups?

Findings

The findings from this research indicated that the significant gap in degree attainment between the two groups of students was because of financial reasons. The participants indicated that despite race playing a role in the low degree attainment among most BAME students, low income also contributed to the gap. Some of the BAME students were bright enough to study the courses they were called for in the institutions of higher learning, however, most of them indicated that they could not complete their studies because of the lack of finances. Some of them had to drop out, or terminate their degree programs for a while in order to look for money. Statistics indicated that around 79% of the white students who were from top income families managed to compelete their education and graduate. The remaining 11% were students from low income families never graduated from university. These were mostly BAME students.

The other issue that contributed to the significant gap between white students and BAME students was the stereotype threat. Studies indicated that BAME students performed poorly in most of the standardized tests that were offered in institutions of higher learning. This was evident among BAME students who concentrated on what was being said about their race. Studies indicated that if institutions of higher learning stopped putting emphasis on race, then BAME students would be in a position to perform better meaning that the gap would decrease. Racial stereotyping caused harm in the academic performance of most BAME students. The stereotype threat caused BAME students not to perform well in most of the exams. Because most of them could not graduate with the poor performance, the number of BAME students who managed to graduate was small compared to that of the white students. The white students, on the other hand, experienced less stereotyping. This led to increased confidence among them. This made even some of the white students who below average to perform well in the standardized tests compared to BAME students.

The other factor that contributed to the significant gap in degree attainment between white students and BAME students was the family structure and cultural background. The cultural background of most BAME students played a role in increasing the degree attainment gap. This is because most parents of the BAME students did not show any concern or make follow ups concerning the performance of their children while in college. Most parents of BAME students felt contented with their children having been accepted in the institution, and never bothered to evaluate the performance of their children. BAME students could not obtain parental assistance or advice from their parents regarding their studies. This contributed to reduced degree attainment among BAME students because their families did not show concern regarding their performance. The table below illustrates the performance of parents of students from different ethnic backgrounds. This illustrates why most BAME students recorded low levels of degree attainment. From the results, it is evident that the white parents had the highest level of education. This means that they put more emphasis on education, as opposed to, the other groups of parents.

Analysis of the findings

From the results, it is evident that several factors contribute to the significant gap in degree attainment between the two groups of students. It was seen that stereotype threats caused BAME students to perform poorly in most of the tests or assignments. Scoring such low marks meant that they had to repeat the units they had failed in order to attain the required grade for graduation. BAME students attributed their failure to the reduced sense of belonging in most institutions of higher learning. They referred to this as the failure of universities to integrate them, and develop a sense of belonging. For example, some of the students cited that there was increased stereotyping by white lecturers or administrators, who believed that BAME students could not perform well. Reduced integration in the different institutions of higher learning caused BAME students to obtain insufficient support on their performance.

The other issues that affected most BAME students, which made them to perform poorly, was the lack of finances. From the interviews conducted, most BAME students indicated that they were from poor backgrounds. This meant that they had to try and balance between their financial situation and their education. Majority of the BAME students dedicated part of the semester working in order to improve their financial situations. Research studies also indicated the negative connection that existed between term-time working, and academic performance. From the studies, it is evident that BAME students could not perform well in most of the tests or tasks they were assigned in school. This is because they concentrated on getting money. Term-time working caused some of them to defer their semesters while the white students continued learning. The inability of BAM students to dedicate their time on studying is a factor that contributed to the degree gap between the two groups of students.

The students also indicated from the interviews that the curriculum used in institutions of higher learning favored mostly the white students. The students referred to these as the learning, teaching, and assessment practices. Most BAME students indicated that the learning, teaching and assessment methods that were used in most institutions of higher learning, hindered their degree attainment while it supported the white students. The BAME students who were interviewed indicated that teaching practices that were used by the instructors mainly favored the white students. For example, one Asian student indicated that the lectures were dull and boring, and the instructors employed poor academic tutoring. Another student indicated that the assignment deadlines were tight, and some of them did not receive feedback from their tutors. These responses revealed that, other than the curriculum, discrimination might have also been a factor that contributed to the significant gap between the two groups of students. Since most BAME students were exposed to different learning practices as opposed to, white students, they found it difficult to cope with the learning methods that were employed in some of the institutions of higher learning. This led to poor performance among most BAME students causing them to attain grades that could not allow them to graduate.

From the results, it is evident that parenting, families and cultural backgrounds, also played a role in increasing the gap in degree attainment between the two groups. Parenting did play a role in the performance of most students. For example, the parents of most BAME students had attained an education up to the undergraduate level while most of the white parents were educated up to the undergraduate level and over. This means that most parents of BAME students could not help their children with their studies. For example, studies indicated that BAME students were never allowed to choose what they wanted to study. Instead, their parents chose for them what to do when they joined campus. Most them enrolled for courses like law or medicine that required a lot of studying. The inability of BAME students to cope with the requirements of different courses caused most of them not to graduate as their performance was poor. This was different from the white students who were given the chance to choose what they wanted to study based on personal interest. This meant that white students developed a passion in what they were studying at the university causing them to work hard. From the interviews that were conducted, participants also indicated some possible suggestions that could be used in reducing the gap of degree attainment between the two groups. The participants indicated that the issue concerning racism was supposed to be addressed. It is evident that, the existence of a racist environment in most institutions of higher learning is a factor that has contributed to the significant gap in degree attainment. They believed that if racism stopped in the institutions of higher learning, then BAME students would feel more welcomed, and this would improve their performance. Racial discrimination caused many BAME students not to consult with their instructors, or other students. From the findings, it is also evident that there are strategies that could be used by institutions of higher learning to reduce this gap. For example, a change in learning and teaching methods that were used in college was a strategy that could help the students attain better grades, therefore, reducing the gap.

In conclusion, there has been a significant gap in degree attainment between white students and BAME students. There are different factors that have contributed to the existence of this gap. For example, the curricula used in universities, financial issues, family issues, cultural issues and racial discrimination. However, in order to reduce these gap institutions of higher learning should develop strategies that can be used to improve the performance of BAME students. This include coming up with policies that can help BAME students from poor backgrounds to complete their education. The other strategy is changing the curriculum to make it fit for BAME students, reducing racial discrimination in the institutions of higher learning, and providing mentoring sessions for BAME students to help them perform better.