Department of Educational Administration


First Advisor

Brent Cejda

Second Advisor

Katherine Wesley

Third Advisor

Nicholas Pace

Date of this Version


Document Type



Gottner, A. (2021). The Complicated Road from Academic Dismissal to Degree Completion: A Phenomenological Exploration of the Student Experience. Ed.D. diss., Department of Education Administration, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 2021.


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 Education, Major: Educational Studies (Educational Leadership & Higher Education), Under the Supervision of Professor Brent Cejda. Lincoln, Nebraska: December, 2021

Copyright © 2021 AnnMarie Gottner


Graduation rates are a key metric for measuring success, both for the student who attains their degree and the higher education institution that awards the diploma. In a time of increasing social pressure to demonstrate the value of the higher education enterprise, colleges and universities have become increasingly attentive to the graduation rates for their students. Individual students are sensitive to their likelihood of degree completion as costs associated with higher education increase alongside continued perception that employability is positively impacted by a college diploma. Faculty and administrators are keenly committed to supporting students to graduation success, and the economic enterprise benefits from higher rates for graduation among students. Institutions report graduation rates for students who they perceive have experienced seamless enrollment at the institution and meet their degree requirements in a set time frame (National Center for Education Statistics, 2018). While this seamless enrollment and “on-time” graduation might be the expectation of many college bound students it is not the experience of all students. Missing from the typical graduation rates and reports is the experience of students who successfully graduate after university academic policy required they temporarily step away from the student role at the institution based on the lack of academic progress or performance. Students who have been academically dismissed and then return to the campus community are often not included within institutional degree attainment rates. As a result, less is known about the experience of persistence to graduation following a gap in attendance. This study used qualitative research methodology to explore the student experience of academic dismissal followed by academic reinstatement leading to successful graduation.

Adviser: Brent Cejda