Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation




Educational, School, and Counseling Psychology

First Advisor

Dr. Keisha Love

Second Advisor

Dr. Kenneth M. Tyler


African American students are graduating from high school and enrolling in higher educational institutions at greater rates than in previous years (U.S. Department of Education, 2009). Yet, they have not achieved the same level of academic success as their racial counterparts (American Council on Education, 2010; Ross, 2012). Ultimately, this disparity has resulted in only 17.7% of the African American population 25 years of age and older having at least a Bachelor’s degree (U.S. Department of Commerce, 2012). Many researchers have employed comparative study designs to explore this disparity. Additionally, researchers commonly study academic success through the exploration of intrapsychic or environmental contributing factors. As a result, limited studies examining the confluence of these factors exist in the literature, and the impact of these contributing factors is not clearly understood.

This study seeks to explore the predictive factors of academic success among African American students by attending to both intrapsychic and environmental factors without the comparison of African American students to students from other races/ethnicities. Employing Tinto’s longitudinal model of institutional departure (Tinto, 1993) and positive psychological approaches, this study will use multiple foci and strengths to answer the research question: Do racial identity, goal commitment, and institutional climate predict academic success among African American college students? Academic success was measured in this study by academic adjustment, social adjustment, and self-reported grade point average (GPA).

Data consisted of 240 African American freshmen from colleges and universities across the nation. Participants completed an online survey that assessed their perceptions regarding racial identity, institutional climate, goal commitment, academic adjustment, social adjustment, and GPA. The results showed that racial identity and institutional climate predicted academic adjustment and social adjustment, but not GPA. Goal commitment predicted academic adjustment, social adjustment, and GPA. When all predictors were combined in the same regression analysis, academic adjustment, social adjustment, and GPA were each predicted and unique significant contributors to the explained variance in those analyses emerged. These findings may help address some of the gaps in the literature regarding academic success among African American students These results can aid in the understanding of the impact of racial identity, institutional climate, and goal commitment among African American college students. Additionally, these results may to the creation of environmental conditions that can facilitate a connection and commitment to higher educational institutions and thus, adaptive academic and psychological outcomes.