College Athletic Reputation and College Choice among African American High School Seniors


This study extends research on college choice, with recent national survey data, by examining what African American students say about the importance of college athletic reputation in choosing which school to attend. We use the Educational Longitudinal Survey to examine the overall distribution of self-reported factors that shape college choices among African American high school seniors who express plans to attend college immediately after high school. We then conduct factor analysis to examine the structure of relations among the diverse factors shaping student preferences and their contribution to understanding variation in the college choice process among African Americans. Finally, to understand the effect of athletic reputation relative to other relevant college selection and access factors, we undertake logistic regression analyses. Our descriptive results show that roughly one out of every three African American respondents report that a school’s athletic reputation is at least a somewhat important consideration in determining their college choice. The factor analysis for the full sample revealed five common dimensions--Academic/ Career, Economic/Practical, Demographic, and Social. Academic/Career considerations-- representing the strongest factors, with Social/Academic/ Career considerations ranked somewhat lower in importance across analysis groups.



An extensive and growing literature on college choice suggests that students’ decision about where to attend college can be just as important as their decision to attend (Astin 1965; Choy & Ottinger 1998; Hossler& Gallagher 1987). Research on the college choice process has demonstrated that a student’s selection of a college is influenced by supply and demand considerations involving decision-making processes operating at both individual and institutional levels (Hossler & Gallagher 1987). Individual notes three basic decisions a student must make: (1) which colleges to apply to, (2) which colleges, if any, to visit, and (3) which college to attend. We examine student self-reports of how institutional characteristics, and a number of other relevant factors that have been identified in past research, influence their college and university choices. More specifically, this study replicates and extends research examining the importance of college athletic reputation on African American students’ college choice by: (1) employing more current national data; (2) examining gender differences; and, (3) studying college choice prospectively among a longitudinal sample of college bound seniors.


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