Date of Award

Winter 2014

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Foundations & Leadership


Community College Leadership

Committee Director

Dana Burnett

Committee Member

Mitchell Williams

Committee Member

Tara Atkins-Brady


With the current emphasis on accountability and the importance of a college education in today's economy, the success of nontraditional students at community colleges is critical. How to improve the success of high-risk students such as GED recipients is a complex challenge for college leaders. While the GED is widely accepted for admittance to college, GED holders have experienced low levels of postsecondary success and clearly face many complex challenges. Lack of persistence has been found in most studies of all nontraditional adult college students, but there is no consensus on whether or not traditional high school graduates perform better in college than those with a GED credential. The purpose of this ex post facto study was to explore persistence to degree and certificate completion for adult learners who enter a community college with a GED credential and adult learners who enter with a traditional high school diploma, as related to length of enrollment and need for developmental education.

Descriptive and inferential statistical methods, namely frequency distributions, chi square, t-test, and logistic regression, were used to determine the existence, strength, and significance of relationships in data extracted from existing datasets. After analysis of these variables, high school credential was not found to have any direct impact on persistence to degree. The type of high school credential did impact the need for developmental education and students enrolled in developmental courses were less likely to persist to degree; however, there was no significant impact of developmental level on persistence, as related to high school credential. The number of semesters a student attends college does effect persistence to degree, but the type of high school credential has no impact on persistence or the number of semesters a student attends college. Colleges cannot rely solely on a student's type of high school credential and must determine the specific student attributes that influence postsecondary success for GED recipients and other high-risk students in order to focus on those strategies which stand the best chance of being effective and successful.


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