Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award

January 2015

Degree Type


Degree Name




First Advisor

David M. Merolla


Despite the ideals of the achievement ideology that invade every facet of American life, there remains a large population of people who are not able to access the basic tool – education – needed to make the American dream a reality. The lack of educational opportunities for Americans of color is an important social issue because their systemic exclusion from higher education has significant implications for America’s economic future beyond social justice and equality. Americans espouse the ideology of equality and opportunity, and the educational system has always been structured on the notion of preparing individuals with skills for the work force (Ogbu 1987). However, black Americans have been denied access to experience the opportunities provided by a good education. Into the 21st century, many Americans of color are still denied the crucial resources and opportunities needed for educational success (Welner and Carter 2013:5). Today, a high school diploma does not offer the same promise of social mobility and stability that it once did. As an academic credential and a social symbol of success, the college degree has taken its place. Some sixty years after Brown v The Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, the current challenge is improving completion rates at the college level. Nationally, the six-year completion rate for black undergraduate students is 20% less than their white counterparts (National Center for Educational Statistics, 2014). An institution must rely on solutions that enhance the academic experience for people who have been marginalized by the educational system itself. Institutions cannot continue to ignore their role in the matter by labeling and creating programs and policies that rely on deficit thinking, the belief that a student’s demography, culture and familial context solely contribute to their low academic achievement. Instead, institutions should make changes that alter their approach to teaching and learning in order to improve college completion rates for students of color. Using data from an urban, public, Research I institution located in the Midwest region of the United States, this study assess services-learning as a teaching and learning strategy to improve the educational outcomes for students of color that the institution.