Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Psychology

First Advisor

Educational Administration and Supervision

Second Advisor

Copyright © 2014 Hoa Khuong

Third Advisor

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


A new conceptual model of student retention was developed and evaluated for first-year retention and for second-year retention of students at an urban, mid-western commuter university. The model captured the joint effects of academic engagement and environmental factors on academic performance and persistence of commuter students in their first two years of college attendance. The academic engagement and environmental factors incorporated into the model included: pre-college academic achievement, Deep Learning, Study Time per Week, College Math Readiness, Major Selection, Hours of Employment, receiving (or not receiving) a Pell Grant Award and Financial Concerns. Structural equation modeling techniques were utilized to simultaneously assess the quality of the theoretical construct known as Deep Learning and to test the hypothesized causal paths linking the engagement and environmental factors to the college grades and student retention. Results indicated that when controlling for pre-college academic achievement, Deep Learning, Study Time per Week, and College Math Readiness had positive effects on First-year Grades. Working outside campus 21 or more hours per week negatively impacted First-year Grades. First-year Grades and Pell Grant Award were significantly related to First-year Retention, but Financial Concerns were found to have a negative effect on retention. When applied to second-year students, Deep Learning and Major Selection were found to have significant effects on Second-year Grades. Factors that positively influenced Second-year Retention were Grades, Major Selection and Pell Grant Award, while Financial Concerns lowered the likelihood of Second-year Retention. Based on these results I suggest that institutional efforts in engaging students in a deep learning-based curriculum, encouraging major and career exploration, and providing college-financing resources can create pathways to greater academic success and persistence among commuter students.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.