Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Higher Education (EdD)

Degree Level



Rehabilitation, Human Resources and Communication Disorders


James Hammons

Committee Member

Ketevan Mamiseishvili

Second Committee Member

Janine Parry

Third Committee Member

Suzanne McCray


Education, College graduation, Graduation rates, State characteristics


As our nation's economy has become increasingly knowledge-based, an educated citizenry is paramount to maintaining a competitive edge in a global marketplace. Thus, college participation and completion have emerged as the gateway to survival and growth for individuals, states, and the nation, making college completion rates a top priority. Stakeholders have begun to equate graduation rates with institutional quality and performance and often use such data to make judgments, create policies, and allocate funding. However, graduation rates are not fully understood and numerous scholars urge caution when interpreting and utilizing single outcome measures. The purpose of this cross-sectional ecological study was to analyze the relationship between selected state characteristics and college completion rates at land-grant institutions and use those findings to create a graduation rate prediction model, inclusive of student, institutional, and state characteristics, that is more accurate than traditional prediction models comprised solely of student and institutional characteristics. Results of correlation and regression analyses indicated that the addition of state variables to a regression model increased the accuracy of predicted graduation rates. Specifically, the size of the traditional college-age population, higher education appropriations, and the ratio of two- to four-year enrollment were found to be significant state predictors and explained an additional 9.3% of the variance in graduation rates at land-grant institutions. The landscape of higher education does appear to be ecological in nature as a wide range of student, institutional, and state characteristics provide a better understanding of educational success. These findings support recommendations for improved interpretation, evaluation, and prediction of graduation rates as well as planning for higher education in order to turn state and national educational attainment goals into reality.