Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Adult and Lifelong Learning (EdD)

Degree Level



Rehabilitation, Human Resources and Communication Disorders


Kit Kacirek

Committee Member

Michael Hevel

Second Committee Member

Kenda Grover


predicting adult academic success, Adult and Lifelong Learning, Adult Education, Online Learning, prediction of academic performance, student retention


Historically, colleges and universities have used intelligence-based admissions tests to select students who demonstrate the intelligence to succeed academically. These institutions also have employed strategies to help students stay in school and graduate. However, despite tests and support strategies, the National Center for Education Statistics in 2018 reported a six-year completion rate of about 60% of first-time, full-time bachelor’s degree-seeking students for the 2010 cohort, including both traditional and online students. One study shows retention in online classes can be 10% to 15% lower than in traditional face-to-face courses (Carr, 2000). Meanwhile, higher education institutions today face increasing pressure to raise graduation rates, which are sometimes linked with state funding. This has inspired administrators and faculty to search for more ways to help admitted students succeed. Angela Duckworth and other researchers contend that intelligence alone does not mean success in long-term goals, like earning a bachelor’s degree. Duckworth contends people need Grit – a combination of passion and perseverance.

This study set out to determine whether Grit mattered in the academic success of online undergraduate students at the University of Arkansas. It focused on determining whether these students’ Grit scores, collected through a survey, correlated to GPA and persistence (enrolling in spring 2019 or graduating in fall 2018). If Grit mattered, the survey could be used as another tool to identify students who needed extra support, before they dropped out of college. The Grit-S survey was administered to all 998 University of Arkansas students identified as studying in online undergraduate degree programs. About 200 responded, identified themselves as studying in online degree programs, and agreed to provide the researcher access to their 2018 fall semester GPA and/or their enrollment status (enrolled or not) in spring 2019. Contrary to many other Grit-based studies, this U of A study showed no statistically significant relation between students’ Grit scores and their fall GPA and persistence, when other predictors and covariates were controlled. It appears the Grit survey would not be a useful tool in helping U of A administrators and faculty identify online students who would benefit from additional support.