Factors Influencing American Indian/Alaska Native Students to Persist to Graduation and Enroll in Postsecondary/Technical Education



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Background: Historically, American Indians/Alaska Natives (AI/AN) have had the highest dropout rate of all other ethnic groups. In 2017, AI/AN youth had a dropout rate of 10.1%, higher than youth from all racial/ethnic backgrounds. It is vital to explore potential factors influencing persistence to high school (HS) graduation and pursuing a postsecondary education to understand the current situation. Based on the literature, four factors that potentially influence an AI/AN HS student to persist to graduation and pursue a postsecondary/technical education include home/family, school, community/tribal/peers, and self/individual. Purpose: The focus of this research was to examine the factors that potentially impact Texas high school dropout rates of AI/AN students. Research studies have shown the increased concern given to this crucial issue. Thus, this study proposed three research questions: 1) What factors - family, school, community, or individual - do AI/AN HS students report as potentially influencing persistence to graduation and enrolling in postsecondary education/technical training? 2) What factors do parents of current AI/AN HS students report as potentially influencing their student’s persistence to graduation and enrollment in postsecondary education/technical training? 3) What factors do AI/AN students currently enrolled in postsecondary education/technical training identify as influential in their persistence to HS graduation and pursuit of postsecondary education/technical training? Methods: The study used a self-report online survey individualized to the three types of study participants. The three distinct groups for this study were a) AI/AN high school (9-12) students, b) AI/AN parents, and c) postsecondary/technical school students. A recruitment flyer was emailed to the Alabama Coushatta Tribe of Texas for their distribution to their members. Participants were provided a survey link via the Qualtrics platform. A total of two high school students and eight parents participated. For the postsecondary sample, a total of 172 individuals participated. Descriptive statistics and crosstabulations were conducted to provide a summary of the data from the surveys across each participant group and the domains being investigated. Results: The data of the parent participants revealed most respondents rated each of the four factors primarily Extremely Important and Very Important. With regards to persistence and college/trade school enrollment, Self/Individual was ranked as highest importance by the most parent respondents. The data from postsecondary students revealed that most respondents rated each factor Very Important to Moderately Important. With regards to persistence in high school, Home was ranked as highest importance by the most respondents while Self/Individual was ranked as highest importance with regards to enrolling in college/trade school. Conclusion: The ratings of most respondents reflect that of the literature regarding the various factors that support and influence AI/AN students to persist and enroll in college/trade school. It will be wise for those involved in the education of Native students, specifically, parents, K-12 and Higher Education educators and administrators, and those involved in Indian Education, to become aware of, adopt, and promote these influential factors throughout Indian Country. Importantly, further studies with high school students and parents replicating the surveys administered will add to the literature on AI/AN academic success.



American Indian, Native American, Indian, Native, Indigenous, persistence, postsecondary, tribal college, education, K–12, educators, parents, factors, influence, graduation, technical school, trade school, dropping out.