Date of Award

Winter 2006

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Foundations & Leadership


Community College Leadership

Committee Director

Dennis Gregory

Committee Member

Mary H. Duggan

Committee Member

Judy B. McMillan


This study examined the differences in levels of student engagement between occupational-technical students and transfer students in an attempt to gain insight into why so many students fail to attain their educational goals. Students' engagement or involvement with their educational institution and program of study is considered a major contributor to persistence and graduation. Research on student engagement as it relates to persisters and leavers includes the five student engagement variables benchmarked by the Community College Survey of Student Engagement (CCSSE): (a) active and collaborative learning, (b) student effort, (c) academic challenge, (d) student-faculty interaction, and (e) support for learners. Using the results of The Community College Student Report (CCSR) 2005 questionnaire developed by CCSSE, this study confirmed previous research on differences in demographic characteristics and risk factors between occupational-technical students and transfer students.

The study also revealed differences in overall student engagement, and determined how occupational-technical students and transfer students engaged differently with their institutions on each of the five student engagement variables benchmarked by CCSSE. In fact, findings showed that occupational-technical students and transfer students differed significantly in their levels of engagement on all of the student engagement variables except one, student-faculty interaction. Additionally, students' intention to persist differed between occupational-technical program majors and transfer program majors, and the relationship between the student engagement variables and students' intention to persist also differed between occupational-technical students and transfer students.

The multifaceted nature of student engagement, coupled with the tremendous diversity of community college students, provides a prolific field for further exploration. While much of the research on student engagement and on the variables benchmarked by CCSSE has been conducted with students in four-year institutions, the results of this study reiterate the need for community colleges to disaggregate the data and learn more specifically how different groups of students engage differently and are impacted by the total college environment. The need to develop appropriate, intentional interventions to improve the retention and graduation rates of community college students compels educators to conduct further research.


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