Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Educational Leadership, Research and Technology

First Advisor

Dr. Joseph Kretovics

Second Advisor

Dr. Patricia Reeves

Third Advisor

Dr. David Hartmann


Attrition, memory, retention, policy, perspective, plan


Currently, the expenditures for higher education by the Dominican government are at record highs (OECD, 2012; MESCYT, 2018). Yet, nationwide, student attrition rates in universities average a challenging 50% (OECD, 2012). This percetange climbs to 80% in Universidad Autónoma de Santo Domingo (UASD). UASD is the oldest public university and the largest higher education institution in the Dominican Republic, hosting 44% of all undergraduate students enrolled in the country (OECD, 2012; UASD, 2018). The institution’s attrition levels suggest that while the Dominican government’s investment in higher education is high, the return on that investment is low.

Although domestic plans and international reports highlight strategies to improve the system (MESCYT, 2018; OECD, 2012; World Bank, 2006), so far no lines of action aim proactively at understanding and informing how people regard public higher education, especially after a recent past of deep social struggle. Hence, new ways to research and address attrition must be considered in connection to social beliefs. Present social perspectives are rooted in the collective memory of the recent past and how this recollection is spread along individuals and populations (Bandura, 2001; Mithander, 2012; Neal, 1998).

From 1966 to 1978 several cohorts of UASD students experienced unprecedented levels of repression and violence as they attended classes amid battle between the –then- right-wing government and left-wing militants inside the university (Bethell, 1990; Franco, 2007; Pimentel, 2002; Kryzanek, 1977).

Considering this historic context, the aim of this study was to explore the effects that social perspectives -informed by collective memory- have over the individuals, specially over their notion of UASD as the default representative of public higher education in the DR. To this end, through a phenomenological method, this study probed into UASD’s recent past of violence, how it is remembered, and what meaning is made out of it. Twelve former UASD students, enrolled during the conflict, were interviewed and their accounts analyzed. The study revealed that most participants considered that current challenges of public higher education have a link to the conflict. In addition, most participants convey a negative perspective or frame of reference of public higher education. This frame of reference has been observed to be predominantly trans temporal, having a link to their experience regardless of the time passed from their years of difficulty until the present day.

Most participants showed no overarching sense of institutional loyalty, making generational continuity questionable while also transmitting discouraging and often incomplete messages about the worth of public higher education. Interestingly, participants acknowledge, however, that UASD has improved significantly during recent years. National plans need to contemplate actions to inform social perspectives about the importance of public HE.

Conclusions in this research contribute to inform educational leaders and policy makers. This is so, since within the sample it depicts the frames of reference and value systems transmitted to society by influential former generations about public higher education

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access