Date of Award

Spring 5-16-2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Educational Leadership

First Advisor

Sheila Gregory, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Barbara Hill, Ed.D.

Third Advisor

Darrell Groves, Ph.D.


The purpose of this qualitative study was to explore how youth culture influences the attitudes and motivations of African-American junior college students who have aspirations to complete postsecondary credentials to advance their socioeconomic status but do not persist. In this study, youth culture was defined as the values, norms, and practices shared by African-American youth between the ages of 18-24, indicative of the way they chose to live life and make decisions. The independent variables were Academic Self-Concept, Student Educational Experience, College Bridge Programs, Academic Advisement, Faculty Involvement and Interaction, Extracurricular Activities, Youth Culture, Family Support, Socioeconomic Status, Black Media, and Social Media; the dependent variable was student persistence. The specific tradition of inquiry was the comparative case study approach because it dealt with the exploration of cases in a real life setting over time through detailed, in-depth data collection involving multiple sources of information. The researcher also utilized interpretive/theoretical frameworks to guide the study.

The study took place at two public colleges within the University System of Georgia, one rural and the other urban. The participants included 12 students, 2 academic advising directors, and 2 faculty members. The study consisted of three types of instrumentation—interviews, direct observations, and focus groups. To analyze data, the researcher interpreted and coded statements from the interviews and focus groups from which themes were developed. Significant statements were also clustered into defined themes. The results substantiated and expounded upon the relationships between the independent and dependent variables. Using the qualitative data collected, the researcher created an Analysis Matrix organized with the three data sources, 20 themes and 5 categories.

The researcher found that youth enrolled in college have a strong desire to persist but encounter many internal and external pressures which make persistence to graduation challenging. Although colleges may be equipped with the tools and resources necessary to promote persistence, many are deemed inappropriate to the needs of African- American students. The conclusions drawn from the findings suggest unlike their majority counterparts, many of these students spend their first semester trying to untangle feelings of belonging and fitting into college culture.