Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.

Department (Legacy)

Department of Educational and Counseling Psychology

Committee Chair

Cuyjet, Michael J.

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Carpenter, Bradley Wayne

Committee Member

Hirschy, Amy S.

Committee Member

Bukoski, Beth E.

Author's Keywords

College choice; African American family; African American women; Black students; PWI and HBCU; High-achieving students


College choice; African American women college students; African American women--Education (Higher); Academic achievement


Despite a long struggle to gain access, African Americans have always highly valued education. Historically Black colleges and universities (HBCU) were established specifically to educate this group, but the integration of predominately White institutions (PWI) in the 1960s led to decreased HBCU enrollments and, thus, challenges to their continued relevance. The numerous options for higher education add to the complexities of college choice, especially for students who have various intersecting identities to consider (e.g., African American women). The purpose of this study was to discover what influenced eight high-achieving African American women who chose to attend a PWI instead of an HBCU. Qualitative, collective case study methods were used to conduct this study. Both student participants and a person they identified as influential were interviewed. This method allowed comparisons and contrasts to determine how various identities and cultural backgrounds affected students’ college choices. Data analysis was continuous permitting connections to the literature and between participants as data collection progressed. Influences affecting the college choices of these women fell into four main categories: predisposition, university characteristics, perceptions of HBCU campus environments, and their intersecting identities. The availability of academic programs, scholarships, and the location of the institution were primary reasons given for these participants’ choices to attend a PWI instead of an HBCU. Students also offered advice to other African American females making college choice decisions. Admissions officers and high school counselors must understand that while scholarships are important, they are not always the greatest influence for this group. It is also important to engage the family during the college choice process and have discussions with the students regarding moving away from home. Essentially, it is important for those working with these students to understand their unique characteristics and how they use those characteristics when making college choice decisions.