Date of Conferral



Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




Joe Ann Hinrichs


African Americans account for a disproportionate percentage of students who pursue college education in comparison to European Americans. Indeed, a considerable number of African American High School Equivalency (HSE) students are not enrolling in college once they earn their HSE diploma. The purpose of this qualitative case study was to examine 3 African American HSE students' perceptions about factors that influenced their pursuit of higher education at the selected HSE study site. These 3 students were selected for their inclusion because of their ethnicity, enrollment in the HSE program, academic underpreparedness and lack of pursuit of higher education, and strong feelings to share about the phenomenon under study. The theoretical framework was based on Vygotsky's sociocultural theory of human learning. The research question focused on assessing African American HSE students' lack of pursuit of higher education. Semistructured focus group interview and individual interview data were thematically analyzed using open-coding. Findings revealed that participants believed the lack of high school credentials, family background, intrinsic motivation and educational values, sociocultural influences, teacher and peer influence, and socioeconomic factors impacted their pursuit of higher education. A professional development project was developed based on study findings to provide HSE educators with training on the HSE exam, Common Core State Standards, and best practices to enrich the academic achievement of African American HSE students at the study site. Results have implications for positive social change among African American HSE students by emphasizing the importance of higher education on educational, sociocultural, professional, and personal advancement.