Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name


Organizational Unit

Morgridge College of Education

First Advisor

Cheryl D. Lovell, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Duan Zhang

Third Advisor

Kerry McCaig


Community college, Motivation, Persistence


Community colleges in the United States serve a vital educational role in job training, preparation for transfer to a four-year institution, granting academic degrees and certificates as well as offering opportunities for personal growth and development. Persistence has traditionally been measured by degree completion or by transfer rates. However, students who enter community college with other goals may successfully meet their goal while not reaching traditional persistence milestones. To date, much of the research on persistence has either focused on traditional students at four-year institutions, or on demographic risk factors among community college students. Little has been done to evaluate the interrelationships between behavioral variables thought to influence community college student persistence.

The purpose of this study was to use a national longitudinal dataset to evaluate a structural model integrating of the effects of behavioral variables associated with student motivation along with mediating factors that influenced community college students as they persisted toward their individual goals. The initial goal was to establish a measurement model for the specified latent variables. The second step involved an analysis of a structural model to establish relationships among the latent variables and endogenous variables. The model was found to describe the community college student population of the BPS: 04/06 survey very well.

Students' combined cognitive ability, self-efficacy, and self-regulatory capacities do allow them to overcome external pull factors that have traditionally been shown to impede student persistence. Students who have higher levels of cognitive abilities, self-efficacy, and self-regulation persist even though they may not feel integrated into the institution academically as indicated by faculty contact. If a student is faced with the pull of outside employment and/or inadequate financial aid, is their capacity for self-regulation and their feelings of self-efficacy appear to enable the student to persist toward their goals. The results of this study have shown that more than any other factor, motivation may indeed be the key to community college student persistence. The results of this study serve to provide an alternative lens through which to view community college student persistence. This viewpoint has not been extensively considered in the extant research literature up to this point. The model presented in this study breaks from most traditional persistence models with the inclusion of psychosocial variables, and was found to be useful in identifying factors not commonly thought to be involved in student persistence.

This study adds to the limited body of knowledge and addresses the gap in literature regarding differences in factors relating to persistence of community college students. The findings should have important implications for research and instruction within the community college environment. Such data could serve to reduce community college student attrition by: (1) aiding in the development of educational programs, (2) helping to develop institutional and public policy to sustain effective student support initiatives, and (3) target students, for whom specific policies should be developed to encourage persistence. By considering how community college students' needs and goals interact, federal, state, and college-level policy-makers might better consider how scarce resources may best be used to foster student success and persistence among the nation's fastest growing college sector.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.

Rights Holder

Kai Alina Savi


Received from ProQuest

File Format




File Size

267 p.


Higher education