Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Public Policy (PhD)

Degree Level



Public Policy


Michael T. Miller

Committee Member

Valerie H. Hunt

Second Committee Member

G. David Gearhart


Black American Men, College Enrollment, Community Expectancy, Education Policy, Higher Education, Tolerance for Disagreement


In the United States, there has been a consistent under-enrollment of Black American men who have enrolled and graduated from four-year colleges and universities. The result of this lack of educational attainment is problematic, as it can be seen in lower employment rates, higher under-employment rates, higher rates of incarceration, poorer health, and even a lower quality life. Institutional leaders and policymakers have struggled to find solutions for increasing the participation of Black American men with largely mixed results. Most of these programmatic attempts, however, have been limited in their approach and have not taken into account family and informal structures that might impact a Black American man’s decision to pursue postsecondary education. Therefore, the purpose for conducting the study was to identify enabling factors that are perceived to encourage Black American men to enroll in postsecondary education. The study employed a transcendental phenomenological research approach, a qualitative research methodology used to explore phenomena in a systematic manner. There were 8 interview participants who were enrolled in seven institutions in the mid-west/mid-south of the United States. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with each individual, and in addition, the Tolerance for Disagreement survey, developed by McCroskey, Richmond, and Stewart, was administered to study participants. The use of the survey was an attempt to explore in-family communication and agreement, and whether those men who decided to attend college were actually in disagreement with their families. Study findings identified a number of variables that impact an individual’s decision to attend college, including personal relationships, interactions with individuals from their social and formal communities, and social organizations that supported them once they were enrolled in college. Broadly, the study demonstrated support for the emerging field-theory of community expectancy that attempts to explain the formal and informal interactions that an individual has on an outlook or decision, and as was explored in the current study, the decision to attend postsecondary education.