Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Policy Studies

First Advisor

Benjamin Baez, Ph.D. - Chair

Second Advisor

Philo A. Hutcheson, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Patricia L. Gregg, Ph.D.

Fourth Advisor

Asa G. Hilliard, III, Ed.D.


ABSTRACT SWIMMING UPSTREAM: A STUDY OF BLACK MALES AND THE ACADEMIC PIPELINE Rhonda D. Wilkins Post secondary participation and graduation rates of Black males are declining rapidly. Black women, however, are realizing substantial growth in both of these areas and account for the majority of the increase in Black student college enrollment. This qualitative case study addresses the decline in Black male participation in higher education by focusing on six Black men who completed college programs and the academic pipeline that brought them to their degree. The purpose of the research inquiry was to determine various factors that either helped or hindered the academic progression of the six Black male participants. For the study participants the two-year college was a component of their academic pipeline and was assessed based on its function as a conduit aiding degree attainment. The common factors that emerged from the findings as influential to the academic progression of the six Black males were categorized as: (a) personal attributes and perceptions, (b) relationships and external influences, and (c) institutional factors. The personal attributes of the participants included self-efficacy, endurance and resilience, and self-regulation. These attributes were framed within the central context of personal agency. Factors external to the participants consisted of family messages about higher education, role models, mentors and advocates, early exposure to college and participation in athletic sports. The institutional factors that surfaced were insufficient college preparation in high school, contrasts between the climate and culture of the two-year college and four-year institution, the lack of promotion of the transfer function at the two-year college. Race and gender were also considered relative to the men and their experiences with the academic pipeline. The salient factors included: (a) the general social and economic conditions faced by young Black males, (b) the perpetuation of negative or one-dimensional stereotypes in the media, (c) pre-college educational inequities, (d) the lack of assistance with college transition, and (e) the unwelcoming climates and lack of Black faculty at predominately white institutions. The study concluded that Black males may face many hurdles to postsecondary attainment and will therefore require personal, family, community, and institutional forces to push them through the academic pipeline.