Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Adult and Lifelong Learning (EdD)

Degree Level



Rehabilitation, Human Resources and Communication Disorders


Kevin Roessger

Committee Member

Kit Kacirek

Second Committee Member

Mike Miller


college English, college success, community college, gateway course, secondary school, rural


Community colleges serve diverse populations that may not be as academically prepared as at four-year institutions. Accountability of higher education institutions is ever-increasing in importance, so understanding the contributing factors to student success is critical. Students bring a unique set of characteristics to the community college, including individual traits and secondary school experiences. Many studies have examined these characteristics at large urban or mid-western institutions, but few in rural settings. Rural areas of the United States have lower rates of educational attainment than other areas, which often translates to lower incomes. It is the mission of community colleges to train the future workforce which should result in a highly skilled workforce with wages to make a comfortable living. To graduate from any higher education institution in Arkansas, students must complete college-level gateway courses. These courses are the first indicators of success. There are many established predictors of college success. These factors could fall in any level of Bronfenbrenner’s Theory of Ecological Development which is the foundation of this study. Two levels of characteristics, student and high school, that may influence the likelihood of gateway course success, College English I, at a rural Arkansas community college are examined. The study included 409 students from 13 secondary schools. Individual characteristics examined include high school grade point average, ACT composite of reading and English only, gender, race/ethnicity, socio-economic status, and parent education level. School characteristics examined were high school rating, racial make-up, school socio-economic status, average years of teaching experience, and school ACT average. The study used a quantitative, two-staged nested, between-subjects design using multi-level modeling with logistic regression. Despite other studies, this analysis determined that high school attended and student characteristics of gender, race/ethnicity, SES, and parent ed level does not influence College English I course success. However, in alignment with most studies, past academic performance measured by HS GPA and ACT score has a strong influence on the success rate. These findings should not be generalized beyond the institution in the study but may be used as a baseline for an institution examining its student population.