Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.


Educational Leadership, Evaluation and Organizational Development

Degree Program

Educational Leadership and Organizational Development, PhD

Committee Chair

Gross, Jacob

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

George, Casey

Committee Member

George, Casey

Committee Member

Alagaraja, Meera

Committee Member

Barr-Pulliam, Dereck

Author's Keywords

Perceptions of debt; student loan debt; Black student loan debt; Phenomenological of debt; public institution; financial knowledge


The rising cost of higher education concerns many families in the United States, especially those from historically underrepresented backgrounds. The purpose of this study is to explore the phenomenon of Black students' perception of their student loan debt and how their financial knowledge influences their decisions at a public institution. This qualitative research provides space to empower individuals to share their stories through semi-structured interviews to get an account of their experiences. Grounded in Yosso's (2005) Community Cultural Wealth Theory, the study seeks to capture the unique ways Black students make financial decisions. The dissertation is divided into five chapters: introduction, literature review, methodology, results, and conclusion. Chapter one introduces the historical context, problem statement, purpose, relevant context, research questions, and significance of the study. Chapter two reviews the literature that focuses on existing literature about student loan debt among Black students and their financial decisions. Chapter three outlines the research design, including the justification for the qualitative phenomenological method. Chapter four shows the results from the participants' interviews which comprised five themes, and the interconnection of the interpretive framework and themes. Six themes emerged in this study: the affordability of higher education, the burden of debt, striving for financial stability, cultural finance comprehension, a pathway to equity, and a racial/ethnic journey. Chapter five begins with an overview, a discussion of the interpretation of the findings, and examines the results from chapter four compared to the extant literature. Finally, chapter five concludes with the limitations and implications for research, policy, and practice.