Date of Award

Fall 2019

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Foundations & Leadership


Community College Leadership

Committee Director

Shana L. Pribesh

Committee Member

Mitchell R. Williams

Committee Member

Christopher R. Glass


Community college is the only pathway to higher education for many students. Jenkins and Fink (2016) reported that 40% of new college students entered higher education through a community college. Most of these students aspire to earn a bachelor’s degree (Fink 2014). In order to achieve their dream of bachelor’s degree attainment, many of these students need to first complete a series of developmental or remedial courses to become college-ready and begin taking curriculum courses. The purpose of this study was to analyze the relationship between developmental education course completion and transfer success by comparing the longitudinal outcomes of students who took developmental courses at a community college with those who did not take developmental courses. The three outcomes analyzed were: 1) transfer to a four-year institution, 2) bachelor’s degree attainment, and 3) transfer to a for-profit institution.

In addition to comparing the long-term transfer outcomes of developmental education students versus non-developmental education students, the study also compared two research approaches. One analysis was conducted using a non-matched sample and the other was conducted using a propensity score matched sample. The differences between the results of the two designs was of particular interest. The non-matched sample, for the most part, yielded the typically expected results. However, the more rigorous, matched-sample design indicated that the number of credit hours earned at the community college is the only significant predictor of vertical transfer to a four-year institution and ultimately to bachelor’s degree attainment. The matched sample results did not indicate that completing developmental education courses was a statistically significant predictor of bachelor’s degree attainment in either a positive or negative way.

These findings indicate that community college leaders, advisors, and other practitioners should focus their resources and efforts on retaining students and encouraging them to complete a large number of required credits at the community college prior to transferring to a four-year institution. These findings are also indicative of the fact that students who start out in developmental courses can persist and achieve the goal of attaining a bachelor’s degree through vertical transfer to a four-year institution.