Date of Award

Summer 2006

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Foundations & Leadership


Community College Leadership

Committee Director

Jerry Young

Committee Member

Molly Duggan

Committee Member

Spencer Baker

Committee Member

Steve Myran


Previous literature has documented the high attrition rates for community college students. Beyond raw data, research has demonstrated that predictors of higher education persistence may include a student's background characteristics, a student's external commitments, institutional influences, and a combination thereof. However, empirical research on the persistence of community college students is scarce, and even fewer studies address the differential predictors of persistence between adult and traditional-aged students. The present study examined the predictors of institutional persistence among adult and traditional-aged degree-seeking, first-time enrollees at a public, multi-campus two-year community college in southeast Virginia.

A random sample comprised of 350 traditional-aged and 350 adult students were encouraged to complete a survey questionnaire to measure the following major constructs under study: individual attributes; student enrollment characteristics; external commitments; goal support; intent and commitments; academic integration; and, social integration. The following semester, the previous semester's fall grade-point average was extracted. The enrollment status of each participant was also extracted to determine who had persisted at the institution.

Using descriptive discriminant function analysis and Independent-Samples t Tests, the predictors of persistence were examined to determine if there are identifiable predictors of institutional persistence for first-time, degree-seeking community college students. These statistical tests were also used to assess if there are differential predictors of institutional persistence between traditional-aged and adult first-time, degree-seeking community college students.

This study found that there are identifiable predictors of institutional persistence for first-time, degree-seeking community college students. Encouragement and support from friends and family in attending the college discriminated most powerfully between persisters and withdrawers, although social integration, degree utility, academic integration, and institutional commitment also contributed significantly to differentiating the two groups. The current study also found differential predictors of institutional persistence between the traditional-aged and adult students. For traditional-aged students, encouragement and support, academic integration, fall grade-point average, and an expressed intent to leave were most predictive of institutional persistence or withdrawal. Chief among the predictors of persistence for adult students were social integration, institutional commitment, degree utility, encouragement and support, finances, an expressed intent to leave, and academic integration.


In Copyright. URI: This Item is protected by copyright and/or related rights. You are free to use this Item in any way that is permitted by the copyright and related rights legislation that applies to your use. For other uses you need to obtain permission from the rights-holder(s).