The Experiences of Low-Income African American College Students at an Affluent and Predominantly White Institution

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University of Alabama Libraries

ABSTRACT The purpose of this study was to explore the lived experiences of low-income African Americans who attended a wealthy and predominantly white institution. Using a basic interpretive research design, 21 low-income African American students attending a university in the southeastern United States participated in individual interviews. The study included students who identify as African American and who are considered low-income based on Pell grant status or their qualification for free or reduced-cost lunch in high school. Results from this qualitative study indicated that low-income African American students encountered many challenges during their college experience. Students expressed feelings of insignificance and alienation related to being a valued member of the campus community. Most study participants expected to feel welcomed to their new surroundings, but discovered that assimilation was not as effortless as expected. In the midst of feelings of isolation and rejection, these students used their social, navigational, and linguistic capital to take control of and effectively manage their lived experiences.

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