Retention and Persistence in Higher Education: An Exploratory Study of Risk Factors and Milestones Impacting Second Semester Retention of Freshmen Students

Document Type



Doctor of Education


Educational Practice

Date of Defense


Graduate Advisor

Shawn Woodhouse, Ph.D.


Allen, Kimberly

Kimberly Allen, Ph.D

Paul Wilmarth, Ph.D

DeAngela Burns-Wallace, Ed.D

Charles Eberly, Ph.D


Improving retention rates is a challenge for many institutions of higher education; especially community colleges where student demographics represent varying academic paths. This study explored the pre-enrollment factors of entrance exam scores, graduating high school GPAs/Rank, and Pell Grant eligibility to determine if they acted as predictors for first semester to second semester retention. In addition, the milestones of time of registration, participation in a first year experience course, (FYE), and declaring a major were also examined to determine whether they predicted subsequent re-enrollment. The study analyzed quantitative data through linear regressions and Chi Squares that were obtained through agency records and closed-ended survey questions, while qualitative data was acquired through open-ended survey questions. The researchers found that ACT and Compass scores (with the exception of the Compass Writing test), and High School GPA/Rank were strong predictors in determining first to second semester retention, while there was no significant difference for the Pell Grant. Although there was no significant difference for the key milestones of time of registration, participation in a FYE course, and declaring a major in predicting retention rates of freshmen students, they did have merit for a retention model.

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