Black Online, Doctoral Psychology Graduates' Academic Achievement: A Phenomenological Self-Directed Learning Perspective

Cathy Q. Williams, Walden University


Guided by the conceptual framework of self-directed learning and culture, this study investigated the effectiveness of Title IV private, for-profit colleges and universities (FPCUs). Little research has examined this topic, which is problematic considering the disproportionate rate of student loan defaults experienced by Black FPCU borrowers. A phenomenological design was used to explore the meaning of academic achievement for Black doctorate recipients who attained a doctorate in psychology through an FPCU. This study specifically examined how Black students experience the completion of doctoral psychology programs at 2 FPCUs and what factors contributed to these students finishing their degrees. A unique-criterion-purposive sample of 7 Black students who completed doctoral psychology programs at FPCUs within the past 5 years was recruited to participate in telephone interviews. Moustakas' data analysis steps were applied to the data. The results indicated that study participants saw an association between attaining their doctorates in psychology and their self-actualization. They shared the experiences of selecting a suitable FPCU, choosing a specialty area, negotiating transfer credits, completing the doctoral coursework phase, and completing the dissertation phase. Their commitment to achieving self-actualization was a salient experience in finishing their degrees. A core aspect of self-actualization was their cultural knowledge, which helped them to overcome challenges and persevere. However, the results uncovered some insufficiencies in the FPCUs' practices. They have implications for positive social change by highlighting how FPCU academic support services might use cultural knowledge and self-actualization strategies to maximize the successful matriculation of Black students.