Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)


Leadership Studies


Organization & Leadership EdD

First Advisor

Patricia Mitchell

Second Advisor

Ellen Herda

Third Advisor

Betty Taylor


Roach (2009) indicates that "only 31 percent of public community college students go on to complete either an associate or bachelor's degree in six years" according to U.S. Education Department data (p. 14). In California the gap is even wider and the statistics more scarce for students of color. Whereas only 15 percent of African American students compared, to 26 percent of white students, complete their degree in six years of enrolling in a California Community College (Roach, 2009, p. 14). College retention as it pertains to success is a challenging issue in the United States, and the California Community College system is facing serious obstacles in defining retention in relation to success. In review of the definitions of retention and success a phenomenon appears indicating that a system or institution can be successful in retaining students, but at the same time unsuccessful in ensuring students achieve goals relating to academic success.

The purpose of this study was two-fold: (a) to explore the perceptions of successful African American students' sense of belonging at the community college level and (b) to identify the factors which influence completion of an academic goal. The factors, which influence a sense of belonging are defined as groups, associations, organizations or programs the student utilized to support their success while attending a community college in California. Academic goal is defined as a certificate, associate's degree or grade point average progress toward transfer to a 4-year college or university.

As part of his effort to build a stronger foundation that will allow Americans to lead in the global economy, President Barak Obama announced a historic initiative to strengthen our nation's community colleges, and called for five million additional graduates by 2020 (Brandon, 2009). Currently in the state of California roughly one out of two African American students successfully completes a course, and this trend has lasted for more than a decade (California Community College Chancellor's Office, 2010). This study provides insight on the key factors that influence successful completion of a certificate, associate's degree or grade point average progress toward transfer to a 4-year college or university for African American college students enrolled in a community college. The significance of this study was to make a contribution to the knowledge on African American students achieving success at the community college level.