The Effect of Course Completion within Selected Major on Persistence for Freshman College Students

The Effect of Course Completion within Selected Major on Persistence for Freshman College Students

Author: 
Gordon R. Flanders
Program of study: 
D.B.A.
Abstract: 
Students who declare a major follow a sequence of courses beginning with the introductory course in the major that is usually defined as a 100-level, or freshman level course. This introductory class is called a gateway class, as students must complete this course to register for the next sequence of courses within their major. This study examined and measured the relationship between first-time, full-time freshman, college students who attempted a gateway class within their declared major during their first semester of college and the retention of these students to their second semester. The study also analyzed retention rates for students who declared a major, completed a class, but not the gateway class in their major and the retention rate for these students. Finally, the study analyzed students who did not declare a major, completed a class, and the retention rate for these students. The findings in this study suggests first-time, full-time freshman students who declared a major and successfully completed the gateway class were more likely to persist, then students who were unsuccessful with the gateway class, or students who declared a major, completed a class, but not the gateway class in their major. To improve retention of first-time, full-time freshman students, the results of this study indicate changes are warranted in the way students are advised with regard to which classes they should complete in their first semester of college.
Dedication: 
I dedicate this dissertation to my three daughters, Michelle Connealy, Cynthia Flanders and Sarah Flanders. As a non-traditional student who returned to school to finish my undergraduate degree in 1990, then graduate school, earning an MBA, and now a DBA, the last 23 years has meant many hours were spent attending classes, writing papers, and missing time with my children. No great accomplishment is made without sacrifices made by those whom we love. In following my dream to be a college professor and earn my doctoral degree, my daughters have had to share their father. For that I am forever grateful and dedicate this accomplishment to them.
Acknowledgements: 
No doctoral journey is completed without the support and encouragement of numerous individuals who helped contribute to this dissertation process. There were a few hurdles along the way, and people stepped up to help me reach the end of my journey. I am grateful to my mentor, Dr. Jennifer Yen, who served as a committee member from the start of this journey, but circumstances led to needing a new mentor, and Dr. Yen stepped up to fill this role, I will be forever grateful. When I needed to find a new committee member, Dr. Linda Brown agreed to serve, given her past experience with student retention and college success programs, she became a perfect fit for my committee. During my time teaching at the University of Wisconsin-Stout, I met Dr. Benita Dilley who agreed to serve on my committee as a non-SAS member. Dr. Dilley was there from the beginning and spent countless hours editing and providing input to improve my dissertation. I would also like to thank my former mentor, Dr. James Booker III for his guidance during the early stages of my research. I also must thank Dr. Charles (Chip) Todd for assistance analyzing my data. This study would not have been made possible without the support of many at my institution, including the registrar, Ms. Kathy Williams, the institutional researcher, Ms. Melissa Harrington, the Vice-Chancellor for Research, Dr. Beverly Hartline, my department chair, Dr. Tim Kober, and my dean, Dr. Doug Coe. I especially need to acknowledge and thank my editor, Ms. Mary Lou Gilman, who made sure my writing, was in active voice and assured what I meant to say, was well stated.