Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Higher Education (EdD)

Degree Level



Rehabilitation, Human Resources and Communication Disorders


Ketevan Mamiseishvili

Committee Member

Michael T. Miller

Second Committee Member

John W. Murry, Jr.


College student success, Persistence, Student Engagement, Student Retention


This study examined the differences between first-year students who persisted with first-year students who did not persist to the second year at a mid-size, doctorate-granting, public, research university in the mid-south. Specifically, the study utilized the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) to compare the level of student-faculty interaction, experiences with the campus environment, and engagement in collaborative learning. Additionally, the study examined whether the differences in the three student engagement behaviors varied by gender, race/ethnicity, and first-generation college student status. Three theoretical frameworks were used as the foundation for the study including Tinto’s model of institutional action, Astin’s theory of involvement, and Kuh’s construct of student engagement. The final sample included 1,402 degree-seeking first-year students who completed the survey in the spring of 2016. Results were analyzed using descriptive statistics and independent samples t-Tests. With the overall sample, the analysis revealed that persisters had significantly higher mean scores with engagement in collaborative learning than non-persisters. Also, female non-persisters were found to have significantly higher levels of student-faculty interaction than female persisters. Furthermore, white student persisters reported significantly better experiences with the campus environment than white student non-persisters. Likewise, the analysis revealed that white student persisters were more engaged in collaborative learning than white student non-persisters. These results provide a number of opportunities for institutions exploring initiatives that may influence their levels of student engagement and retention rates. Specifically, the NSSE can be a beneficial tool with helping institutions utilize their resources to identify policies, programs, and practices that can have a positive influence on student persistence.