Date of Award

Fall 9-22-2020

Degree Type


Degree Name

PhD Higher Education Leadership, Management, Policy


Education Leadership, Management and Policy


Robert Kelchen, PhD

Committee Member

Rong Chen, PhD

Committee Member

Richard Blissett, Ph.D.


Social capital, cultural capital, graduation, African American, higher education


The prevalence of the persistent low graduation rate among African American students in four-year colleges gave rise to the examination of the role of social and cultural capital in improving graduation for African American students. This study examines the role played by the relationship between social and cultural capital and other factors for African American students’ graduation. Guided by social and cultural capital as the theoretical framework which presents social and cultural capital as acquired by parents’ and students' social networks and cultural endowment and tenets. These two levels of social and cultural capital are available for students to utilize for their academic endeavors to produce desirable educational outcomes. The study pulled data from the Educational Longitudinal Study, 2002 (ELS:2002) administered by the National Center for Educational Statistics. Data were pulled on students who attended four-year institutions. The sample was limited to students from four different races: African American, Hispanic, and Asian students with White students as a reference group. The study utilized logistic regression to analyze data on factors predicting graduation rates in regression blocks. The findings in this study showed that SES, financial aid especially federal grants, and student academic engagement can contribute to student graduation. However, social and cultural capital had little impact on closing the gap in Black/White students' graduation. The findings support previous research on the role of social and cultural capital in closing the black/white graduation gap. Recommendations for future studies include understanding the reasons for the lack of an impact on closing the Black/White graduation gap. Additionally, future studies should work to identify confounding factors preventing social and cultural capital from closing the Black/White graduation gap.