Date of Conferral



Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




Thomas Hadley


Considerable research has been conducted regarding the usefulness of placement testing in community colleges. Many stuides show that using the COMPASS exam may lead to students' unsuccessful course completion. To better identify the factors that may result in reduced attrition, the relationship between attrition and placement testing was studied. Using Tinto's student retention model and employing qualitative methodology, this study explored the perceptions of students and faculty regarding whether COMPASS placement assessment predicted future student success in first year courses at a community college that reports higher rates of attrition when compared to other area community colleges. After completing interviews with the 10 students, 6 faculty, and 2 administrators, the data indicated that using the COMPASS placement scores did not contribute greatly to attrition. Rather, the findings from the data analysis revealed that work ethic, family obligations, and test stress factored greatly in first-year student attrition. As a possible solution, 3 retention programs identified at comparable institutions address the findings of this study: An Alternative Learning Program, a Summer Bridge Program, and use of peer mentoring. In other sites, use of these retention programs have resulted in a 15% reduction in first-year student attrition. Reducing first year student attrition provides implications for social change. By adopting these retention initiatives, the community college in this study may improve overall first-year student retention, increased funding for the college, and better serve the local community.