Campus Racial Climate Matters, Sense of Belonging Matters More: Modeling Pathways to Persistence for Students in Developmental Mathematics
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To expand theoretical models concerning college student retention and emphasize factors that may be particularly important for underrepresented minorities enrolled in developmental education (DE) mathematics courses, the current study explored campus racial climate (CRC), sense of belonging (SB), and resilience as predictors of students’ academic achievement and persistence intentions. The study was conducted at a Hispanic-Serving University with a plurality of the student body identifying as Caucasian and approximately one tenth as African American. Surveys were administered to students in DE mathematics courses at three points during the semester and data from 207 students were analyzed. Mean comparisons showed that students who identified as African American perceived the campus racial climate as significantly more negative than students who identified as Caucasian or Hispanic. Results from path analyses suggested that sense of belonging was a significant mediator of the relationships between campus racial climate and each outcome variable (i.e., negative for DE mathematics course grade and positive for intent to persist). A significant interaction effect (i.e., sense of belonging x African American) was found for the path model with persistence intentions. This interaction suggested that sense of belonging played a stronger role in influencing the persistence intentions of students who identified as African American, particularly those with low sense of belonging. Findings can help guide institutions to explore ways to help students feel a stronger sense of belonging and build a culturally supportive campus climate for all students.