Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Doctor of Education

Department

Adult Education, Human Resources Development

Advisor's Name

Thomas G. Reio, Jr.

Advisor's Title

Committee Chair

Advisor's Name

Abbas Tashakkori

Advisor's Title

Committee Chair

Advisor's Name

Tonette S. Rocco

Advisor's Name

Glenda Musoba

Keywords

persistence, for-profit university, retention, mixed method

Date of Defense

3-30-2011

Abstract

An increasing number of students are selecting for-profit universities to pursue their education (Snyder, Tan & Hoffman, 2006). Despite this trend, little empirical research attention has focused on these institutions, and the literature that exists has been classified as rudimentary in nature (Tierney & Hentschke, 2007).

The purpose of this study was to investigate the factors that differentiated students who persisted beyond the first session at a for-profit university. A mixed methods research design consisting of three strands was utilized. Utilizing the College Student Inventory, student’s self-reported perceptions of what their college experience would be like was collected during strand 1. The second strand of the study utilized a survey design focusing on the beliefs that guided participants’ decisions to attend college. Discriminant analysis was utilized to determine what factors differentiated students who persisted from those who did not. A purposeful sample and semi-structured interview guide was used during the third strand. Data from this strand were analyzed thematically.

Students’ self-reported dropout proneness, predicted academic difficulty, attitudes toward educators, sense of financial security, verbal confidence, gender and number of hours worked while enrolled in school differentiated students who persisted in their studies from those who dropped out.

Several themes emerged from the interview data collected. Participants noted that financial concerns, how they would balance the demands of college with the demands of their lives, and a lack of knowledge about how colleges operate were barriers to persistence faced by students. College staff and faculty support were reported to be the most significant supports reported by those interviewed. Implications for future research studies and practice are included in this study.

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