Native American high school seniors' perceptions of higher education: Motivating and demotivating factors

Calvin Krogman
Educational Administration, University of South Dakota
June, 2016


For many Native American students, particularly those from reservations, the pursuit of higher education is a formidable concept to grasp. Poverty, rural isolation, and a myriad of social ills all take a role as demotivational factors that act as barriers between Native American students and a college education. On the other hand, family, community, and hope for a better future motivate many students to overcome these barriers and to pursue a college degree. This quantitative study explored Native American high school seniors' perceptions of both motivating and demotivating factors for the pursuit of higher education. This study utilized a researcher-developed survey based on literature. It reviewed factors that might be perceived as motivational or demotivational by Native American high school senior students. There were 370 survey responses that were utilized in the survey. Participant responses came from ten different high schools, five located on Native American reservations, five located off of, but in close proximity to, reservations. The survey used a five-point Likert scale to assess students' perceptions of motivational and demotivational factors toward higher education. The survey also collected responses on demographic data for selected criteria for further statistical analysis to observe any differences based on demographics. The data were analyzed using means, standard deviations, and t tests. The findings from this study indicate that better job opportunities and earning potential were the highest perceived motivating factors, wheras cost, distance, and difficulty of college coursework were the highest perceived demotivational factors for Native American students. Furthermore, this survey found that statistically significant differences existed in perceptions of motivating factors for students based on the demographic characteristics observed; gender, high school location, first generation status, college preparation program participation, likelihood of attending college. Finally, this study found that Native American high school seniors' perceptions of motivational and demotivational factors toward higher education were mostly similar to their non-Native American peers.