Date of Award

Winter 1-15-2024

Document Type


Degree Name

PHD - Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. Louise Michelle Vital

Second Advisor

Dr. William L. Dandridge

Third Advisor

Dr. Tara Edelschick


While Black students have gained increased access to college, the data reflect that there are fewer Black students completing or earning bachelor’s degrees. Existing research reflects findings on various factors, both academic and non-academic, that influence student retention and success in higher education. Historically, theories on student retention and success have emphasized the importance of a student’s academic ability and commitment to obtaining a degree. Scholars such as Vincent Tinto have developed theories on student departure and attrition that emphasize the impact of non-academic factors on academic and social integration and the student experience regarding student sense of belonging at an institution. Building on the work of Tinto and others, this phenomenological qualitative study was conceptually framed by six non-academic factors: (1) family relationships, (2) peer relationships, (3) faculty relationships, (4) financial aid, (5) race/campus climate, and (6) support services. A total of ten one-on-one interviews with both Black female and Black male participants was conducted via the Zoom virtual meeting platform. While some participants discussed experiences of transferring from four-year, Predominantly White Institutions (PWIs), all students were enrolled at community colleges at the time of the study. The findings of this study confirm that the six factors identified above influence Black student sense of belonging and reveal why some Black students transfer from four-year PWIs to community colleges. This study also shows the intersectionality of race/campus climate to peer and faculty relationships and institutional support services (e.g., Black student clubs, affinity groups, fraternities, and sororities). Additionally, the findings revealed nuances in Black student identity related to cultural distinctions among Black students of African American, Caribbean, and African descent in relation to the student-to-family relationship. Broadly, the implications of this research provide insights into the impact of various relationships and institutional supports on Black students. This research highlights the importance of sense of belonging and the need for higher education officials to consider factors beyond academics regarding the retention and success of Black college students.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 License.



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