Native American students often enter postsecondary education as means of serving a broader community. Studies among a broad base of tribes found that the desire to serve a larger community acts as a motivation to persist through college. However, institutions of higher education often center on individualistic empowerment rather than focusing on how to empower tribal communities.
Due to the lack of quality datasets that lend to quantitative research, our understanding of factors related to American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) postsecondary persistence has primarily been based on qualitative studies The purpose of this study is to understand how the desire to serve a larger community influences current and former Cocopah and Quechan undergraduate students’ college persistence. The study adds to the Native American postsecondary persistence literature base, that up till now, has not quantitatively examined students’ desire to serve a larger community as a persistence factor while intentionally sampling two smaller tribes with tribal enrollments less than four thousand.
This dissertation presents a Native American persistence model and alternative method of sampling small Indigenous nations, establishes construct validity for an instrument measuring the proposed persistence model and provides evidence the proposed model predicts postsecondary persistence and academic performance. The design of the model derives from a review theories and scholarship on Native American persistence. Subsequently, construction of an instrument measuring the model emerged from the theories, literature, expert feedback, and pilot testing. Using data collected from an online survey of a sample of Cocopah and Quechan students (n=117), the study provides evidence of construct validity of the instrument through an exploratory factor analysis. Following the instrument validation, regression analyses indicates that AI/AN postsecondary persistence within both two-year and four-year institutions is positively associated with student desire to give back. The evidence further suggests that researchers, practitioners, and administrators should expand programs that center on nation-building to increase the persistence of Native American students while simultaneously meeting the needs of tribal nations.