Date of Conferral



Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




Catherine Watt


Low retention rates among 1st year students plague many community colleges in the United States, including the study site used for this research. Preparing 1st year community college students both academically and socially are key aspects of combating this issue and enhancing student success and persistence. The purpose of this quantitative study was to determine the influence of the First-Year Experience (FYE) course in improving student retention and promoting student success. Rodger’s student development theory and Tinto’s theory on retention guided this study. A causal-comparative design was used to examine the difference in retention rates and GPA between students enrolled in the FYE course and students who were not enrolled in FYE. A total sample of 19,511 1st year students were enrolled in 3 academic semesters in fall 2011, spring 2012 and fall 2012 of which 761 were FYE students and 18,750 were non-FYE students. A series of t tests and chi-square tests were conducted to compare the 2 student groups for the 2 dependent variables. Results showed no statistically significant difference between FYE participation and retention rates for the 2 semesters spring and fall 2012 (p = 0.69 and p = 0.32 respectively) but there was a statistically significant difference for the fall 2011 semester (p < 0.001). The GPA was significantly higher for the 1st year students who completed FYE compared to those who were not enrolled for all three semesters fall 2011, spring 2012, and fall 2012 (p < 0.001, p = 0.15, and p = 0.94 respectively). The results indicate that the FYE course can improve students’ GPA consistently but not their retention. A more detailed investigation into the influence on retention is needed. This study promotes social change by encouraging further research that will benefit the development and improvement of FYE courses.