Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Adult, Career, and Higher Education

Major Professor

Waynne B. James, Ed.D.


Adult education, Education, Academic persistence, Non-completion, Urban university


The purpose of this study was to explore individual perceptions of African-American at-risk students in an undergraduate teacher education program, specifically continuing students or community college transfer students in a four-year urban university College of Education (COE) program. Specific areas of interest included: (a) demographic characteristics profiling the study participants; (b) emotional and motivational factors as they affected the students; and (c) the personal thoughts and effect of institutional and environmental variables and administrative factors. Ten females volunteered to participate in a semi-structured interview. The 22 semi-structured interview questions were developed by the researcher. The questions captured the individual personal background, academic information, college environment, and reasons for leaving college.

A triangulated set of research methods for data collection was used, including a demographic profile, the semi-structured interview, coding, and salient points and theme validation. Member checks and independent reviewers were used for verification and validation purposes.Conclusions drawn from this study include the findings that the majority of students were motivated to complete their degree, but a variety of barriers including personal problems, financial needs, faculty communication difficulties, lack of administrative support services, and isolation in classes existed. Some positive perceptions of the teacher education program included appreciation for most of the faculty in the college, technology services and the new facilities for the COE, and the existence of on-line advising capabilities.

The following implications emerged from this study: (a) the COE needs a clear policy for recruiting at-risk African-American students; (b) flexible course selections and offerings conducive to non-traditional students are desirable; (c) a full-time recruiter to organize and facilitate student organization support is needed; (d) more African-American faculty are crucial as role models; and (e) it is essential to continue to focus on cultural awareness within the curriculum, and (f) creating a climate of support and togetherness in which students feel comfortable is necessary. Future research is recommended addressing the perceptions of at-risk African-American male students, other ethnic and racial minorities and other colleges within the university or across universities.