Black Student Success in Higher Education: An Asset-Based Examination of Individual and Institutional Factors

This study focused on both the voice and experience of successful Black students in higher education as well as the factors, both internal and institutional that they perceive as contributors to their success. This research is important because while a breadth of research exists that examines Black students and their relationship to higher education, much of it is framed in a deficit-based line of inquiry. As a response, and inspired by critical race theory (CRT) and Harper’s (2012) anti-deficit achievement framework (ADAF), this study focused on successful Black college students’ stories and what might be learned from them. The literature shows that Black students bring a variety of strengths and abilities to their higher education experience that merit further attention by both researchers and educators especially since these students achieve in spite of the challenges so widely documented in the deficit-based literature. Using a narrative research approach, this study identified eight high-achieving students and explored their experiences, their success, and the factors they perceived as contributors to their achievement. Additionally, this study sought to highlight the students’ experiences as a counternarrative to the existing discourse, add to the existing body of asset-based research and inquiry, enlist study participants as partners in the research process, facilitate their storytelling and amplify their voices. Data collected from eight semi-structured interviews and photojournal entries was restoried and coded for themes that yielded rich and meaningful insight into the strengths successful Black students bring to research and practice. The findings of this study reinforced those of the other asset-based researchers highlighted within this study and strengthen the need for more studies of this type. Study findings also included stories that were the result of the collaboration between researcher and participant as well as the themes that provided insight into their perceptions of the factors contributing to their success. Lastly, participants showed themselves to be willing and capable partners in the research process and offered a wealth of information that informed assertions relevant to research and practice. Among these were the importance of early influences, the students’ strengths, the importance of their peers, and the ways that their lived experiences can inform a higher standard of research inquiry and care in the higher education setting.