Degree

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Agricultural and Extension Education and Evaluation

Document Type

Dissertation

Abstract

The primary purpose of this study was to determine the impact of the type of high school completed and selected academic and demographic characteristics on university retention to degree completion at a research university – very high research (RU/VH) in the Southern Region of the United States.

The dependent variable of this study was persistence to graduation within six years of first enrollment. The target population was defined as traditional-age undergraduate students enrolled in a research university – very high research (RU/VH) in the Southern Region of the United States. The accessible population was defined as traditional-age undergraduate students enrolled in one selected research university - very high research (RU/VH) in the Southern Region of the United States who began as first semester freshmen during the Fall semester 2014 (n = 5354). Of the 5354 students, who completed a high school program in 2014 and entered the study institution in the Fall 2014 entering class, 3168 completed a public high school program, 2157 completed a private high school program, and 29 completed a home school program. Students in each group were described on selected academic and demographic characteristics. Students in the three groups were found to be different on numerous characteristics. On most of the academic measures, public school graduates were different from private school graduates and home school graduates were not different from either of the other groups. On the personal demographic characteristics, especially race and gender, the home school graduates were very different from one or both of the other two groups. Additionally, a Multiple Discriminant analysis was utilized to identify a seven variable model explaining persistence to graduation.

The findings indicated that first semester GPA and attempted hours were the best predictors of a student’s persistence to graduation. The researcher concluded that interventions designed to improve student retention should intentionally target first semester students. Consequently, the researcher recommends implementation of an early warning system designed to identify student issues prior to the semester midpoint and the initiation of intervention programs designed to address problems that are identified in this early warning system.

Date

11-6-2020

Committee Chair

Burnett, Michael F.

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