Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award

1-1-2020

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D. in Education

First Advisor

Amy Wells Dolan

Second Advisor

David Rock

Third Advisor

Kerry B Melear

School

University of Mississippi

Relational Format

dissertation/thesis

Abstract

Low-socioeconomic students often persist and graduate from institutions of higher education at lower rates than middle and upper-socioeconomic students. Learning communities are one proactive program established in higher education to support first-year students in their academic and social acclimation into college. However, learning community literature tends to focus on the success of the participant population as a whole. This study sought to contribute to existing learning community literature and low-socioeconomic student literature by measuring learning community impact on low-socioeconomic student academic success in terms of GPA, same-institution retention, and same-institution degree completion within six years. This quantitative study measured GPA, retention and degree completion data of low-socioeconomic students participating in the FASTrack first-year learning community program at the University of Mississippi for fall cohorts 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013. The FASTrack learning community seeks to help first-year students by providing cohort linked-courses, academic advising, mentoring, and a residential option. First-year, low-socioeconomic FASTrack participant outcomes were compared to first-year, low-socioeconomic students of the same cohort years who did not participate in FASTrack. Key findings of this study include: (a) learning community participation did not significantly impact GPA for first semester or first year outcomes of low-socioeconomic students, (b) low-socioeconomic students not participating in FASTrack had significantly higher second, third and fourth year GPA outcomes, suggesting learning community participation may have had a slight impact in the first year, (c) learning community participation had an impact in retention with low-socioeconomic participants having higher retention rates for second, third, and fourth year compared to low-income students not participating in a learning community, (d) learning community participation had an impact on low-socioeconomic student second year retention compared to middle and upper-socioeconomic first-year students and (e) learning community participation had no impact on degree completion within six years for low-socioeconomic students.

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