Date of Conferral



Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




Sydney Parent


The 1st-year retention rate of the Structured Education Program (SEP) is 90%, yet the 6-year graduation rate of SEP students is 29%. The gap between SEP 1st-year retention and graduation rates is the problem that this study addressed. The low graduation rate of SEP students is an important issue because graduation rates are used to measure the quality of higher education institutions. The purpose of this study was to understand the low graduation rates of SEP students. Tinto's retention theory, which seeks to explain dropouts from higher education institutions, was the main framework of the study. The study's research questions focused on former SEP students' experiences with required and optional support services that were first introduced to students while enrolled in the SEP. This study used a qualitative, intrinsic case study research design. Data were collected through 12 semistructured interviews with participants who met the criteria of former SEP students who have completed the program within the last 5 years. Interviews were transcribed, member checked by interviewees, and then coded to identify 6 themes that focus on participants' commitment to support services. The findings revealed that required exposure to support services in SEP students' 1st year had a meaningful influence on each student's journey toward graduation. An outcome of this study was a policy recommendation paper designed to increase the study site's graduation rates through increased support service requirements for 1st-year students. This study may provide positive local social change through more student commitments to support services and increased retention and graduation rates.