Date of Conferral

2016

Degree

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)

School

Education

Advisor

Nicolae Nistor

Abstract

Obtaining a college degree benefits individuals and society, yet only 20% of students are graduating from community colleges. At many institutions, graduation rates have decreased over the last 5 years, including one historically Black community college in the southern United States. To explore possible causes of low graduation rates at this unique and understudied type of college, this correlational study examined the relationships among student engagement, academic performance, and gritâ??persistence and passion toward long-term goals. Tinto's theory of student persistence served as the theoretical framework for this study. The convenience sample included 116 college students who already had a first-year grade point average (FYGPA). Grit was measured by the Grit-Short Scale; student engagement by the Student Engagement Instrument-College, and academic performance by FYGPA. No statistically significant relationships were found between grit and academic performance, or between student engagement and academic performance, however. Recommendations included additional research with larger samples of students and other HBCUs. Recommendations also included exploring other non-cognitive constructs, such as academic mindsets, learning strategies, socials skills, and academic behaviors to understand those relationships with academic performance. Implications for positive social change include disseminating initial research findings to the college administration for continued research on efforts toward producing more graduates, thereby increasingly providing quality higher education to underserved groups of students.