This study examines the influence of personal resources on educational attainment.  Using data from the National Education Longitudinal Study of 1988, this study analyzes the educational outcomes of 1992 graduates who enrolled in a 4-year college or university immediately after high school.  Using logistic regression, this study attempts to answer the following questions: (1) Do personal resources influence educational outcomes, net of important background characteristics?; (2) Do these resources affect men and women differently?; and (3) Do these resources affect minority students differently?  Results indicate that, net of other important background characteristics, personal resources as measured by respondent’s aspirations, advanced math taking, and SAT/ACT preparation efforts, significantly influence educational outcomes.  However, they have stronger effects on degree completion than persistence.  The effects of advanced math courses on degree attainment are significantly stronger for women.  SAT/ACT preparation and seeking help with college admissions yields significantly different results for some racial/ethnic groups. 


Racial disparities in academic achievement and educational attainment remain a serious problem in this country.  Despite academic progress made in the 1970s and 1980s, recent education data show stagnant or declining academic performance by minority students since the 1990’s.  Minority students continue to perform well below their White and Asian counterparts on national standardized tests and continue to enroll and graduate from college at lower rates (Garibaldi 1997; Slavin and Madden 2002 as cited in Chubb and Loveless 2002). 

There has been significant progress in closing the black/white gap in high school graduation rates, but Hispanic students still lag far behind with a graduation rate of 59.6 percent for 18- to 24-year olds (American Council on Education 2002).  Minority students have increased their enrollment in postsecondary institutions, but college graduation rates still remain low.  In 1999, the six-year graduation rate for AfricanAmericans at Division I institutions was 39 percent compared to 59 percent for Caucasian students and 66 percent for Asian students (American Council on Education 2002;

Current Population Survey 2001; Journal of Blacks in Higher Education 1999).

These differences in academic performance and educational attainment mean that Black and Hispanic Americans are much less likely than White and Asian Americans to complete high school, earn a college degree, and make a living considered to be middle class.  Consequently, African-Americans and Hispanics are also disproportionately affected by social problems (i.e., poor health, higher crime and unemployment rates, etc.) that are closely correlated with low-income (Chubb and Loveless 2002). 

These profound differences in lifestyle contribute to attitudes of resentment and inter-group hostility.  If minority students can raise their overall academic achievement, the social and economic impact on racial inequalities would help ease racial tensions and raise the status of minorities in this country (Slavin and Madden 2002).

Most studies of educational attainment draw from the Status Attainment model and focus on the impact of background characteristics such as parental education and income on educational attainment.  Other research focuses on barriers to access and enrollment in higher education institutions (Dougherty 1992; Lang 1992).  This paper seeks to identify determinants of college success and examine additional factors that may help to explain racial differences in higher education using the 1988 National Education Longitudinal Survey.  Specifically, my focus is on the personal and academic resources that students bring to college and the impact these resources have on college persistence and degree completion.