Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Ph.D. in Education

First Advisor

Amy E. Wells Dolan

Second Advisor

David Rock

Third Advisor

K. B. Melear


University of Mississippi

Relational Format



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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