Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department

Adult, Career and Higher Education

Major Professor

Waynne B. James, Ed.D.

Committee Member

Tony Tan, Ed.D.

Committee Member

Amber Dumford, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Liliana Rodriguez-Campos, Ph.D.


Adult Learners, Higher Education, NSSE, Student-Faculty Interaction


More students than ever have been provided access to higher education; however, the increase in enrollment is outpacing the data on successful completion rates. Student engagement has been identified as fundamental for college student success and retention.

The purpose of this study was to provide a description of the student engagement of non-traditional first-generation Black students attending 4-year public institutions in the United States. Using the Student-Faculty Interaction (SFI) National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) scales of student engagement, this study examined the relationship between SFI and selected personal characteristics of traditional and non-traditional, first-generation first-year and senior-year Black students, across various university sizes. The dataset for this study consisted of the 2017 NSSE respondent data for 4,495 Black First-Generation College Students (FGCS) between 16 and 72 years of age. This was a quantitative secondary analysis study, with analyses including descriptive statistics, t tests, analysis of variance, and multiple regression.

Overall, the results indicated the existence of lower SFI ratings for Black first-generation older and non-traditionally aged students. Non-traditional student status was determined based on age and class year (i.e., a first-year student 21 years or older, or a senior student 25 years and older). The results of each of the statistical tests suggest the traditionally aged students, and younger non-traditionally aged students were more likely to report the highest levels of SFI despite their class year. There was no statistically significant difference in SFI based on gender and there was no evidence to support the existence of an age*gender interaction for first-year or senior-year students. However, findings do suggest increased SFI for non-traditionally aged students attending universities with a medium institutional enrollment size, and non-traditional students who assist faculty with research.

The results of this study may inspire higher education institutions and faculty to prioritize enhancing the quality and frequency of SFI for Black FGCS who are non-traditionally aged. Faculty could be intentional and strategic about interacting with their older students outside of the required classroom activities. In addition, institutions and administrators could consider identifying ways to provide faculty with incentives for engaging in research with undergraduate students.