Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


College of Education and International Services


Higher Education Administration PhD

First Advisor

Bordes Henry-Saturné

Second Advisor

Jay Brand

Third Advisor

Renaude Etienne



International students are an important part of higher education institutions because they bring in funds, they enhance the diversity, and increase the knowledge being shared (Srivastava et al., 2010; Luo & Jamieson-Drake, 2013; Ongo, 2019; Knight, 2007; Pandit, K., 2007; Baklashova & Kazakov, 2016). Therefore, if retention is not monitored and maintained, the United States could soon lose this important group to other countries with more competitive retention plans (Srivastava, 2010, p. 1561). Andrews University is one school in the U.S. that already shows signs of retention issues among international students, including African international students. There are several challenges that contribute to retention issues in higher education including lack of inclusion, financial issues, lack of support from faculty, and lack of familiarity with the learning expectations (Gao, 2021; Haverila et al., 2020; Heyman, 2010; Mamiseishvili, 2012; Unruh, 2015). These challenges can also lead to students remaining in their programs much longer than the expected time of completion. Exceeding completion times not only negatively impacts the goals and aspirations of the student, but it also negatively reflects on the effectiveness of the university’s education and learning process. This research explored the issues of students exceeding their expected time of completion is explored as it pertained to African graduate students at Andrews University.

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this qualitative study was to understand the factors contributing to the time of completion for African graduate students at Andrews University by exploring the challenges that affect their persistence. Additionally, the perspectives of African graduate students about these factors were explored to better understand what contributed to their persistence in their programs or if adequate support was provided from Andrews University to address any issues hindering their graduation.


This research used a phenomenological qualitative approach to understand the phenomenon of students exceeding the expected time of completion in the graduate program at Andrews University. A hermeneutical phenomenological approach was utilized to explore the lived experience of students from their perspective. A research sample of 10 African graduate students was chosen; 5 male students and 5 female students. All participants had to be international students who travelled on a F1 visa, and they had to be still on campus at Andrews university having studied for more than the expected number of years in their graduate programs. Information was gathered through interviews with participants recorded digitally which were then transcribed and analyzed by hand.


External factors play a much larger role than internal factors for African graduate students at Andrews University. There are many challenges that they face due to transitioning to a new environment and trying to adapt to a new education system. However, challenges related to being self-sponsored were the most significant. Without substantial funds, students are forced to balance working hours, raising a family, and doing coursework on their own. The support provided through scholarships, donors, and work-studies are crucial forms of aid for African graduate students. More programs such as the Aspire scholarship with Ghana, God’s Abundant Pantry, and Neighbor to Neighbor can help Andrews University become a place where African students go with assurance of support. Because most participants were enrolled during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, changes to travel, education, and access to resources also impacted the time they spent in their programs. Although the university did not cause many of the problems related to prolonged time of completion, the action they take to help alleviate these problems can determine whether they will have a steady intake of African students in the future.

Subject Area

Andrews University--Foreign students; Andrews University--Graduate students; African students; Dropouts--Prevention


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