Degree Name

EdD (Doctor of Education)


Educational Leadership

Date of Award


Committee Chair or Co-Chairs

Donald Good

Committee Members

Louise Dickson, James Lampley, Jasmine Renner


Many Native American students face challenges when entering and attending institutions of higher learning. For Native Americans, seeking postsecondary education frequently means overcoming hurdles, such as inadequate college preparatory courses work, economic hardships, leaving Native American communities behind and acclimating to the expectancies and values of a dominant culture. These barriers often result in Native American college students leaving college early or failing to graduate.

One solution to this problem has been the creation of Tribal colleges where Native American students are able to practice their cultural traditions and preserve tribal values, while at the same time developing skills to become successful college students. The Tribal colleges’ curricula and delivery methods foster more cooperative learning activities rather than academic competition, present the study of natural phenomena through direct observations, and permit cultural research regarding Native American history and language.

A survey was distributed to all enrolled members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indian (EBCI) college students to compare the experiences of those attending Tribal and non-tribal colleges. The results of the survey provided data for a nonexperimental quantitative study that addressed 18 research questions in an effort to determine whether there is a significant difference between the educational experiences of EBCI college students who attend non-tribal institutions and those who attend Tribal colleges. In particular, there was a focus on three domains: student viewpoints on separation and alienation from their tribal community; tribal community connections; and individual perceptions of success. A comparison of the experiences by gender between students attending Tribal versus non-tribal colleges was made. The researcher used the Native American Collective Orientation and Pursuits in Education Scale (NACOPE) survey results as determinants of the college students’ experiences.

The findings of this study indicated there were no significant differences between the experiences of EBCI students who attended either Tribal or nontribal colleges. In addition, there were no significant differences when gender and type of college were considered. However, there were significant differences in those attending Tribal and nontribal colleges regarding some dimensions. Students in both groups had significantly higher survey scores than the median test value on the NACOPE in three areas. These higher scores were observed in their overall experiences being reported as positive; feelings of community connectedness to their home tribe; and less feelings of separation and alienation on their college campuses.

Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access


Copyright by the authors.