Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name


Organizational Unit

Morgridge College of Education, Higher Education

First Advisor

Judy Marquez-Kiyama, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Cecilia M. Orphan, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Linda Bowman, Ph.D.


Developmental education, Community college, Remediation, Cooling out, Students, Higher education, Burton Clark, Human agency


Developmental education is a critical issue in higher education, particularly within community colleges. Each year, thousands of students enroll in community colleges, yet many are unprepared for college-level work. These students are often required to enroll in developmental courses before they can enroll in college-level courses, and these courses are often a barrier to student success. In recent years, a number of community college systems across the United States have redesigned their developmental education programs in an attempt to improve student outcomes.

This project examines one such statewide redesign that uses a qualitative case study analysis to apply Burton Clark’s theory of the cooling out function of community colleges to the experiences of students navigating the redesigned developmental education program. Using interview data from developmental students participating in a Math Bridge program as part of the redesign as well as interview data from advisors and other key staff members involved in the enrollment, testing, and advising process, I argue that while the key features of Clark’s cooling out process are not evident in these practices, there are other factors impacting the academic aspirations of developmental math students at the study site. Using these findings, I propose recommendations for policy and practice as well as updates to the theoretical framework.

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