Date of Conferral



Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




Christopher Godat


Nationally an estimated 41% of traditional students who begin seeking an undergraduate degree do not persist through degree attainment. Guided by Tinto's theory of student departure and the theory of social integration, the purpose of this study was to identify the reasons students withdrew from college prior to degree completion. A qualitative case-study design was implemented, and 13 former college enrollees were purposefully selected for individual semistructured interviews. The students graduated from one high school in the Southeastern United States. Data analysis was conducted using open coding procedures with iterative recategorization to identify key themes. Findings indicated that inadequate preparation, lack of guidance, and ineffectual support structure as high school students contributed to subsequent early withdrawal from college. As former college enrollees, participants identified mandatory enrollment in remedial courses, lack of maturity, and a lack of nonacademic support services as causes that led to early withdrawal. Based on these findings, leading recommendations for high schools include providing more rigorous coursework and higher academic expectations. Recommendations for colleges and universities include strengthening academic and social support systems for first-year students. These results may encourage high school leaders and educators to design and implement strategies to improve college readiness initiatives, retention programs, and support services in institutions of higher education.