Department of Educational Administration


First Advisor

Brent Cejda

Date of this Version


Document Type



Paulson, A. (2012). Transition to College: Nonacademic Factors that Influence Persistence for Underprepared Community College Students. Unpublished Dissertation, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, Lincoln, NE.


A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Major: Educational Studies (Educational Leadership & Higher Education), Under the Supervision of Professor Brent Cejda. Lincoln, Nebraska: December, 2012

Copyright (c) 2012 Ann Paulson


Community colleges provide access to higher education for a broad range of students. The majority require ‘remedial’ coursework in reading, writing and, especially, math. Most students who begin with this remedial coursework do not go on to earn a certificate or degree. Low levels of college graduation have high direct cost, adversely affect the U.S. economy and contribute to socioeconomic inequity.

The literature review shows that both academic and nonacademic factors influence both completion of remedial coursework and completion of first year in college. It introduces research on a variety of strategies for increasing completion and persistence for underprepared students.

The purpose of this ex post facto study was to identify nonacademic factors that may influence the ability of underprepared, community college students to transition into college-level work and the extent to which these factors could be used to predict persistence. Logistic regression was used to analyze the effect of gender, race/ethnicity, age, enrollment status (full- or part-time), receipt of financial aid, family status and purpose. Each factor was evaluated with the other six factors held constant. The dependent variable was the completion of 15 college-level credits. The population for this study was students in the Washington State system of 34 community colleges. Records for 15,177 students were considered.

The findings reflected that at least one category in each of the seven variables had a statistically significant relationship with persistence at the .05 level. The best predictor of student success in transition was enrollment status (full- or part-time) followed by race/ethnicity, gender, receipt of financial aid and family status. The findings are significant because they direct further research into the factors and experiences that influence success, and point toward practices to address gaps.

Advisor: Brent Cejda