There remains limited research on the gap between the participation and persistence to graduation rates for American Indian students in higher education. It is pertinent to explore the experiences of these students who did not persist to graduation to be able to gain a better understanding of the factors involved in this gap. The primary purpose of this qualitative study was to gain a greater understanding of why twenty American Indian college students who were high-achieving and received the Gates Millennium scholarship (AIGMS) did not persist to graduation. To achieve this greater understanding from an Indigenous perspective, it was important to utilize existing theoretical frameworks developed by Native scholars that employed critical, culturally sensitive lenses for the analysis. Through the lenses of Tribal Critical Race Theory, Cultural Models of Education and the Family Education Model, the research questions were developed with a critical focus on the institutional influence of the participants’ experiences. This study employed a phenomenological qualitative approach guided by an Indigenous research paradigm.
The findings of this research inquiry were broken down into five main sections. The first section discussed the pre-collegiate experiences of AIGMS. This set of findings emerged throughout the interviews as participants shared their experiences in college, they often referred back to influential moments with their families and tribal communities leading up to college. The second section highlighted the conditions that impeded AIGMS’ success in institutions of higher education. What emerged as the major factors of AIGMS’ non persistence within higher education was GMSP’s inflexible deferment policy and missing structures on campus to represent participants’ Native and Gates scholar identities, such as space for AIGMS to practice their cultural spirituality and direct support on campus for being a Gates scholar. The third section reveals the push-pull factors influential to AIGMS’ experiences on campus and back home in their tribal communities. The main push factor from the institution was the lack of support they felt from key institutional agents, such as from a multicultural center director, financial aid officer or academic advisor. The fourth section describes the impact of the campus racial climate on AIGMS’ experiences on their respective campuses. Some AIGMS assumed that being awarded this prestigious scholarship would be acknowledged either through their faculty or staff on campus. Instead they described examples of exclusion, lack of belonging, marginalization, isolation and invisibility on campus. The final section described the experiences of AIGMS who returned to higher education, including those who have found success in tribal colleges as well as those who have since completed their degrees without funding from GSMP. This finding is of particular importance because it demonstrates that the loss of financial aid affected the type of institution AIGMS’ returned.
Principally, AIGMS were thoughtful and rational about their decision to defer from higher education, taking into account the factors pulling them from outside the institution – such as family/medical/health issues. They were also impacted by their experiences within their institutions that pushed them out from within – such as experiences with invisibility and marginalization on campus. Faculty, institutional agents and their peers played into these experiences. The Gates Millennium Scholarship Program and institutions’ lack of cultural understanding of how to serve these AIGMS led to a disconnection with these students. These AIGMS’ experiences with push and pull factors places more responsibility on the institution and the scholarship program for their non-persistence.
|Advisor:||Lee, Jenny J.|
|Commitee:||Cabrera, Nolan L., Tippeconnic Fox, Mary Jo|
|School:||The University of Arizona|
|Department:||Educational Leadership and Policy|
|School Location:||United States -- Arizona|
|Source:||DAI-A 78/09(E), Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Keywords:||American indian, Gates millennium scholarship, Institutional responsibility, Scholarship policy, Student departure, Student success|
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