Educational Administration, Department of


Date of this Version

Spring 5-3-2013


St. John, M. E. (2013). Who you know and how to go: The impact of social capital on higher education access for Black males. Master's Thesis, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska For Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Arts, Major: Educational Administration, Under the Supervision of Professor Brent Cejda. Lincoln, Nebraska: May, 2013

Copyright (c) 2013 Morgan Elizabeth St. John


This qualitative case study explores the relationship between social capital, or the social networks in a young man’s life, and access into and persistence in higher education for a group of six Black, male, upperclassmen students at Heartland University. Heartland University is a predominantly White, four-year institution in the Midwest region of the United States. The literature review discusses reasons for the steadily declining rate of males choosing to pursue a college education, particularly young Black men, whom have been referred to as an “endangered species” in society (Johnson, Farrell, & Stoloff, 2000). Providing a framework of social capital theory, the author asserts that social networks have powerful implications for the educational attainment of Black male college students.

Through a semi-structured interview protocol, qualitative interviews were conducted with six junior and senior Black, male Heartland University students. Students were able to share stories on the relationships in their lives that helped them to pursue, access, and succeed in higher education. Findings indicated the students’ relationships with their parents, family members, and friends were essential in the college decision-making process, relationships with high school teachers were crucial in gaining insight about accessing higher education, and college administrators and college friends were necessary to persisting in college. This research provides a model for Heartland University to promote higher levels of social capital for Black male students via their connections with administrators, faculty members, and peers, offering recommendations for future research and best practices in higher education student affairs.

Advisor: Brent Cejda