Educational Administration, Department of


Date of this Version



Stuart-Carruthers, A. Christine (2014). A Phenomenological Study of the Lived Experience of Undocumented Latino Students to Enroll In and Persist at a Four-Year Public Hispanic-Serving Institution in Texas. PhD dissertation, University of Nebraska.


A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Major: Educational Studies, Under the supervision of Professors Brent Cejda and Richard Hoover. Lincoln, Nebraska: November, 2014

Copyright (c) 2014 Angela Christine Stuart-Carruthers


Undocumented students in the United States are trapped in a myriad of completing federal, state, and local laws that impact their lives daily. While approximately 60,000 undocumented students graduate from high school each year, the college going rate for this population is substantially lower than their documented peers. Since President Obama signed the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals executive order, undocumented students have gained national attention. Despite this new focus on undocumented students few studies have been conducted to gain a deeper understanding of the live experiences of these students.

Framed by Tinto’s (1993) Theory of Student Departure and Latino capital theories, this phenomenological dissertation study focused on the lived experiences of four students who attended a four-year Hispanic-Serving Institution in Texas. Through a series of interviews conducted during the 2013-2014 academic year, this study sought to answer the question: why have undocumented Latino students enrolled and persisted against the odds in the pursuit of their four-year college degree? Through a comparison of the themes against Tinto’s Student Integration Model capital theories, three findings emerged: (a) undocumented students were able to enroll in an institution of higher education by leveraging the capital they possessed; (b) the determination of the undocumented students was so great, it allowed them to overcome the obstacles in their way; (c) the undocumented students persisted because the university community provided support.

Advisers: Brent Cejda and Richard Hoover