School of Education


Doctor of Philosophy


Jeremiah Koester


Student Loan, Student Loan Debt, Financial Aid, Higher Education, Higher Education Decision Making Process, Burden, Debt, Debt Stress, Stress, African American, High School, Perceptions, Case Study


Education | Higher Education


The purpose of this case study was to examine African American high school students’ perceptions surrounding potential student loan debt burden and its perceived influence on the decisions to enter HEIs. The purpose of this study stems from the current status of student loan debt as a significant factor in the decision-making process for potential higher education students as well as current students and those who have graduated. The central research question of this study was what are African American high school student perceptions of student loan debt, student loan debt burden, financial aid, and how are those perceptions influencing decisions toward HEI attendance? The research used a descriptive case study methodology and data collection included structured interviews, focus groups, and document analysis. Interviews, document analysis, and a focus group occurred with 10 African American high school students in order to gain further understanding of student perceptions. Participants were selected from a rural high school and ranged from the tenth grade up to graduating seniors. I aimed to discover and gain understanding of the significance of influence perceptions of student loan debt burden has on higher education institution decision-making in African American high school students. It was found that potential student loan debt was an influence on the higher education decision-making process for African American high school students. Students expressed concerns with potential debt burden and perceived potential student loan debt to be a significant factor in the decision making process.