Pressing Toward the Mark: The Influence of Spiritual Meaning on the Retention of African American Male Graduate Students at Public Universities

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D)


Higher Education Leadership

Date of Award

Spring 2017


College enrollment of African American males has increased from 10% to 15% in the last 3 years (National Center for Educational Statistics [NCES], U.S. Department of Education, 2012). The cost of graduate education (Gururaj, Heilig, & Somers, 2010) and institutional racism (Gildersleeve, Croom, & Vasquez, 2011) are linked to the high attrition rates of Blacks in postgraduate programs. However, it has been suggested that spirituality may influence the retention of African American college students (J. Thomas, 2010). As an integral part of the development of students, faith and spirituality serve as a compass to help students identify what is meaningful and purposeful in life. The purpose of this study was to examine the the effect of spiritual meaning on the likelihood of African American male students to stay in graduate programs and the effect of program level on the likelihood of African American male students to stay in graduate programs in public universities. Two 4-year public HBCUs located in the southeastern region of the United States were studied. A total sample of 133 African American, male graduate students represented the participant pool. An online survey was used to collect student responses to the Spiritual Meaning Scale (SMS). The Statistical Package for the Social Science (SPSS) version 22 was used to calculate the Mann-Whitney U nonparametric test. The Mann-Whitney U test was used to evaluate the relationship of spiritual meaning and program level to the likelihood of students to stay in graduate programs. The results revealed a statistically significant effect for spiritual meaning. The results did not reveal a statistically significant effect for program level. The information gained from this study implied that spiritual meaning may play a role on the retention of African American, male graduate students.


Charlotte A. Larkin

Subject Categories

Education | Educational Leadership | Higher Education