School of Education


Doctor of Education (EdD)


Ellen Lowrie Black

Primary Subject Area

Education, General; Education, Higher; Sociology, Ethnic and Racial Studies


degree completion, higher education, Native American college students, persistence, retention


Education | Race and Ethnicity | Teacher Education and Professional Development


The number of Native Americans entering college is higher now than it has been over the past 40 years; however, the degree completion rate has been less than half that of White students. This research study was a bounded case study of Native American students enrolled in the teacher education program. The purpose of this qualitative case study was to identify the perceived factors influencing the retention rate of Native American college students. Some of the theoretical models that explain why students stay or leave an institution before earning a college degree look more toward explaining this phenomenon in a quantitative analysis, although some of the methods can be applied to a qualitative case study. Some traditional theories on student retention emphasize the importance of students' backgrounds and positive encounters with other ideas and people (Guillory, 2008). The data collection procedures included interviewing participants, taking field notes, and reviewing documents and federal initiatives. From the data analysis, major themes and topics emerged, which included (a) cultural identity, (b) the institution, (c) factors for success, and (d) barriers to success. The findings of this study signify the need for higher education to incorporate Native American cultural aspects into their programs. The needs of Native American students are complex and require administrators, faculty members, and students in higher education to get involved. The retention rate of Native American students will remain low unless more attention is given to the financial, academic counseling, mentoring, spiritual, and relational aspects of college life.