Donald R. Day

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Educational Leadership


The purpose of this study was to identify the perceptions of American Indian students regarding higher education and to examine factors that contribute to or create obstacles to their retention and graduation. The sample of American Indian students was selected from five Upper Midwest institutions of higher education and was stratified by age and by gender. A total of 100 students participated in the study, with 20 from each institution representing equal numbers of traditional age females (18–24 years of age), traditional age males, females older than average (25 years of age or older), and males older than average.

All five post-secondary schools selected for this study had support programs designed to assist the American Indian student populations on their respective campuses. The American Indian support program staff at each institution assisted in this research by identifying the members of the sample and by distributing and collecting the survey instrument. Focus groups were conducted with selected members of the sample to elicit additional perceptions on retention factors.

Findings of the data analysis supported the following conclusions. American Indian students who are older than average were perceived to have more obstacles to overcome to matriculate successfully in higher education. This was particularly true for the older than average female students. Traditional age female American Indian students were perceived to be better prepared for post-secondary education than their male counterparts and their older female counterparts and also to face fewer obstacles to retention and graduation. Finally, it was concluded that American Indian students do not perceive themselves as being comfortable attending post-secondary schools, in particular when such action is considered from a cultural perspective.

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