Date of Conferral



Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




Earl Thomas


Low retention rates for first-year students plague many higher education institutions, and are even lower among online institutions of higher education. At Athena Colleges (a pseudonym), the attrition rate can be as high as 50% in students' first academic year. To address this concern, Athena Colleges has implemented an online bridge program that addresses students' academic needs and persistence. The purpose of the study was to evaluate the effectiveness of the bridge program in reducing the first-time student attrition rate and academic performance in their first term. Most of Athena Colleges students are nontraditional students and due to this, the theoretical framework that guided this study was Malcolm Knowles's theory of andragogy. The design of the study was a formative program evaluation using a quasi-experimental design to analyze the data, which measured the primary goal of the bridge program, the reduction of attrition of first-time students. The data used for this study was archival data provided by the institution. The data provided included academic program start date, enrollment status, secondary education credential earned, secondary credential award date, first-term GPA, bridge program status, and date of termination (if applicable) and consisted of 4,916 total records. The data were analyzed using descriptive statistics and an ANOVA by comparing the academic performance of students who participated in the bridge program to those who did not, using a 300 student sample size for each group. The results showed there was no statistical difference between the two groups for retention, but there was a statistical difference on first term GPA. The social change implication of this study indicates that faculty and administrators must ensure that remedial academic services are in place for students who enter online programs with knowledge and skill deficits.