Perceptions of justice: Undergraduate degree persistence of African, Asian, Hispanic, and Native Americans at the University of Nevada, Reno, 1994--2002

Yvonne M. Bermudez
Department of Sociology, University of Nevada, Reno
July, 2005


This dissertation examined the retention outcomes of 329 Native American, Hispanic American, Asian American, and African American students at the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR). Degree status, assessed seven years from initial enrollment, was explored in relation to: ethnicity; social and academic integration; perceptions of procedural and distributive justice; and the general belief in a just world. Academic integration measured by grade point average (GPA) was positively related to the likelihood of degree completion within seven years. The odds of degree completion increased 14.42 times with each unit increase in GPA. The hypothesized relationship between Hispanic and Asian Americans as one group, and Native and African Americans as another was supported. The odds of obtaining a degree were 3.15 times greater for Asian and Hispanic Americans than Native and African Americans. Trust, control, and fair treatment were three dimensions of procedural justice examined. Analysis of these variables revealed that perceived control over educational choices, such as course selection, demonstrated a positive relationship with degree completion. In addition, control over the decision to attend UNR was positively related to both distributive justice measures. Perception of unfair treatment, control in the decision to attend UNR, trust (student issues dealt with openly), and the general belief in a just world each failed to reject the null hypothesis, that there is no relationship between these variables and degree completion. In addition, neither satisfaction of educational needs, the perception of improved career/work aspirations, or social integration was significantly related to the likelihood of degree completion. Although not hypothesized, sports/exercise as a method of coping with stress was positively related to degree completion. In addition, enrollment in summer courses increased the likelihood of degree completion. Finally, students with either transfer credit or advanced placement credit were more likely to have a degree than students with none.