A Chippewa Cree student's college experience : factors affecting persistence
Drummer, Kadene Sue
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Educators working with Chippewa Cree students need to understand how the students' precollege experiences, college experiences, and cultural backgrounds influence their success in higher education in order to design learning environments, procedures, and policies that will increase the graduation rate of this population. The purpose of this grounded theory study was to explore factors that help or hinder successful completion of a bachelor's degree by students from the Chippewa Cree Tribe. Data was collected in face-to-face interviews using a peer-reviewed interview protocol consisting of open-ended questions for graduates and student services personnel determined by the concepts identified after examination of related literature. Thirty graduates from the Chippewa Cree Tribe and 5 student services personnel from two state colleges in Montana were interviewed. Factors that the graduates found most relevant to their success were family, personal goal, friends, institutional support, and academic preparation. The greatest obstacles they reported were finances, loneliness, commuting, life responsibilities, discouragement, unpreparedness for college work, lack of study skills, and lack of time-management skills. Suggestions to improve the graduation rate for new students included persistence, responsibility, preparation for the transition from high school to college, time management, willingness to leave their comfort zone and develop their social skills, study skills, class attendance, willingness to ask for help, lack of discouragement, academic preparedness, and completion of school work. Recommendations include designing recruiting and retention strategies to meet the specific needs of the Native American student, collaborating with K-12 schools and the community to develop programs that encourage early preparation for college, establishing and advertising Native American centers on campuses, organizing professional development seminars on diversity issues designed to give faculty and staff a safe environment to explore different cultures, encouraging increased faculty-student interactions, creating an advisory committee charged with increasing Native American student retention, recognizing and giving appreciation for success, developing a comprehensive college finance and budgeting workshop that includes the student's whole family, and developing and maintaining an up-to-date data base within the Chippewa Cree Tribe to collect data on educational and cultural issues.