School of Education


Doctor of Education in Curriculum & Instruction (EdD)


Denise Nixon


retention, college adjustment, African American, first year experiences, community colleges, social integration, student departure


Curriculum and Instruction


The purpose of this phenomenological study was to explore African American community college students' first-year experiences with college adjustment and persistence at a two-year, predominantly White community college. Tinto's (1975) institutional departure theory which merges the constructs of social psychology and institutional climate was used in this study to analyze how social integration impacts African American community college student’s first-year college adjustment experiences. Tinto’s (1975) theory asserts that college students who experience an inadequate amount of social integration or view themselves as being of trivial value in the social and academic systems of a higher education institution, decrease in institutional commitment. This theoretical viewpoint demonstrates connections between high attrition rates and first-year college adjustment experiences of African American community college students. Due to the scarcity of qualitative literature that examines the interplay between social integration, persistence, and the first-year college adjustment experiences of African American community college students, a qualitative design was determined to be appropriate design for this study. Eleven participants from a large community college were involved in this study and were selected based on ethnicity, age, and academic year. Data was collected using individual interviews, a writing prompt, and a focus group. Data collected was analyzed using the memoing technique and clusters of meaning, and the data was organized and stored using the Microsoft Excel software. The findings of this study indicated that African American students’ adjustment, motivation, and perseverance were impacted by first-year challenges with college transition and support, feeling a sense of belonging, and their institution’s cultural environment.