American Indian women in higher education : is Tinto's model applicable?
Taylor, Franci Lynne'
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Higher education degree completion for American Indians has remained virtually unchanged for the past three decades. American Indians, both female and male, continue to have the lowest percentage of terminal degrees completion of any ethnic population in the United States. Numerous studies have been completed to examine the barriers that prohibit American Indian success at the postsecondary level. However, there remains a lack of critical information concerning the personal experiences of those American Indian females who have persevered and have completed first, an undergraduate degree and then matriculated through the systems to attain a terminal degree. The purpose of this study is to survey a sample of American Indian women who have acquired a terminal degree and elicit their personal perceptions of the process and reasons why they were successful. This study is descriptive in nature and utilizes an analysis of both survey and interview data. A total of 71 women were contacted with 31 survey/interviews being completed for a completion rate of 44%. The battery of questions was divided into two categories. The first category addressed demographic information and academic background, including area of study and dissertation title. The second category assessed personal reflection and their response to various barriers as documented in the Tinto Model, such as investment in traditional American Indian culture, academic, emotional, institutional, economics, committee and other influential people. Conclusions were drawn as to the degree to which these respondents caused a failure to prove the effectiveness of the Tinto Model in predicting success or failure for American Indian women entering the post-secondary system with the desire to attain a terminal degree. The testimony of these successful holders of the terminal degree clearly reveals that many of the barriers identified by Tinto were to their perception strengths that assisted their success.