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How “Grit” Affects Black Graduation Rates

The chips are stacked against Black males trying to make it through school and experts have pointed to everything from the Great Recession to the 1980s crack epidemic as the reason why. But a recent study by Terrell Strayhorn, associate professor of educational studies at The Ohio State University, says there may be another factor at play.

“For many Black men, talent and high school success are not the only things they need to succeed when they attend a predominantly White university," Strayhorn says, pointing to a third factor — grit.

According to psychologists, "grit" is defined as a dedication to pursuing and achieving a goal, whatever the obstacles and failures along the way. In his study of 140 Black male, first-generation college students who were enrolled full time at a large, predominantly White public university, Strayhorn found that grit affected college grades for almost as much as high school GPA and ACT scores.

“Despite where they begin in terms of college readiness, Black males who show more grit than their peers earn better grades in college," he concluded in this study, which appears online in the Journal of African American Studies. Even after taking into account factors that may affect grades, such as prior achievement, age, year in school, transfer status, how engaged they are in university activities and their degree aspirations, the grit-to-success correlation remained true.

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