Date of Conferral



Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




Boyd Dressler


The problem addressed in this study was the low retention of African American freshmen at a private Historically Black College. The purpose of this basic qualitative study was to learn what factors influence an at-risk freshman student’s decision to persist or leave college so that interventions related to positive change can be proposed. Tinto's student integration model and Bean’s causal model of student attrition were the conceptual frameworks that grounded this study. The research question focused on African American freshman students’ experiences that influenced their ability to persist. Semistructured interviews were conducted with 12 purposely selected participants representing first-year students at the study site. Open coding data analysis was performed to identify emerging themes from participants’ interview responses. The results revealed that many of the participants experienced difficulty in adjusting to their first year of college. Data also indicated that the faculty and staff could benefit from learning more about the factors that support or hinder student persistence. The results led to the creation of a 3-day professional development workshop that was focused on increasing student persistence. The study results and workshop may help leaders to develop support programs at the research site that are effective in helping at-risk first-year freshmen navigate through their college experience successfully. The study results may contribute to positive social change by providing information that will support institutional changes at HBCUs to ensure that at-risk African American freshmen students persist past their first year. Students may then be better prepared to take on leadership roles and responsibilities within their community and beyond its borders.