First Generation African American College Students: A Qualitative Analysis of Barriers That Impact Graduation

Gentlemen Graduating

By Dr. Shewanna Talley

Higher education opens the door for individuals around the world.  College preparation and readiness can be an easy or challenging process, depending on the individual.  First-generation African American college students often face challenges when preparing for and attending college (Yue, Rico, Vang, & Giuffrida, 2018).  First-generation African American college students lack the resources and support that is necessary to succeed in college (Parks-Yancy, 2012).  There are many obstacles these students face regarding the college process and understanding where to go for support when challenges arise.  According to Yue et al. (2018), first-generation African American college students typically have a challenging time adjusting to the demands of their academic and personal lives, have lower expectations of themselves, and lack family support as they transition to an institution of higher education.  Furthermore, higher-education leaders play a vital role in the retention of first-generation African American college students.

The purpose of this study was to explore the lived experiences of first-generation African American students who are attending or have attended college for the first time.  Through this study, the researcher hoped to explore the factors contributing to the success and failure of first-generation African American college students and their perceptions of the expectations of educational leaders and the types of services or resources provided intended to assist with increasing the graduation rate of first-generation African American students.

The implications of this study suggest that higher-education leaders have a direct impact on the success of first-generation African American college students.  Student and faculty member relationships improve the odds of first-generation African American college students’ persistence (Longwell-Grice et al., 2016).  The significance of first-generation college students acquiring resources and establishing an effective communication relationship with educational leaders is integral to their college success.  Additionally, this research provided insight into the importance of mentorship leading to college retention.  Faculty mentorship has been associated with positive retention (Sinanan, 2016).

The findings from this study can aid higher educational institutions in implementing a mentoring program to assist first-generation African American college students in adjusting to college culture.  Mentoring is embedded in the historical and philosophical foundations of African Americans (Sinanan, 2016).  The study contributed to research by identifying that educational leaders’ influence and the lack of resources are significant in first-generation African American college retention.  The knowledge obtained from this study can be used to increase the retention rate among first-generation African American college students in higher education.