Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ded)


Professional Studies in Education

First Advisor

Shirley Johnson

Second Advisor

Kelli Paquette

Third Advisor

Roger Briscoe


This phenomenological study explores college students’ perceptions of formal and informal support systems, as well as to explore the impact of informal counseling on the persistence of African-American college students attending PWIs. A qualitative approach was utilized to investigate this phenomenon.

22 African-American college students attending two Predominantly-White Institutions participated in individual and focus group interviews. The results showed that stigma, perceived need, cultural understanding, and trust are key factors that affected the participants’ perceptions of formal and informal counseling. Informal counseling was utilized through family, friends, faculty and staff, and religious influences. Additionally, the participants of this study were impacted by informal counseling practices through a culture of care, racial representation, and campus climate.

These findings suggest that counseling departments on college campuses must engage in more outreach efforts to support African-American students and to decrease the stigma associated with counseling services. Establishing a sense of community and belonging for African-American college students impacts their persistence at a PWI.