Date of Award

Spring 2003

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Urban Services - Urban Education

Committee Director

Michael R. Dingerson

Committee Member

Raymond F. Morgan

Committee Member

Terry L. Jones


The primary purpose of this research was to conduct a systematic study that investigated ways other than awarding certificates of completion to determine the effectiveness of community colleges' occupational-technical certificate programs. These programs are designed to provide students with the skills necessary to enter the workforce or receive promotions in existing employment, and they attract students whose primary goals are to gain the skills necessary to be more productive workers.

This study was designed to assess the effectiveness of fifteen occupational-technical certificate programs at Tidewater Community College (TCC) according to the institution's mission statement and to identify ways to encourage students to earn certificates of completion. Students' academic records, responses to surveys, focus group discussions, and unsolicited comments were analyzed. These analyses determined that although TCC's occupational-technical certificate programs do not meet accountability according to numbers of certificates awarded, they are meeting standards of effectiveness in respect to the college's mission statement, providing students with skills necessary to successfully enter the workforce or advance in existing jobs. Thus, this study concluded that effectiveness of community colleges' occupational-technical certificate programs could be measured by means other than traditional methods, such as counting graduates.

Findings showed that 68% of the students who enrolled in TCC's occupational-technical certificate programs for career goals made the decision to withdraw because they had met their goals. Significantly more students left programs for trade-related reasons after they had completed trade-related courses but before they enrolled in academic classes; significantly more students who were unemployed, while attending classes, withdrew from programs for trade-related influences than those from other employment groups. While non-completers perceived academic requirements as the primary barriers to students earning certificates, 56% of these former students did not believe institutional policies and procedures affected the decisions of students to leave programs.

Seven areas of concern that signaled the need for further research are discussed. While three of these areas apply to TCC, four address concerns of community colleges in general.


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