Electronic Theses and Dissertations



Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education


Higher & Adult Education

Committee Chair

Donna Menke

Committee Member

Colton Cockrum

Committee Member

Edith Gnanadass

Committee Member

Wendy Griswold


With the introduction of the Tennessee Promise and Tennessee Reconnect, approximately 24 percent of the college student population in the fall of 2018 in Tennessee was made up of community college students. The community college retention and graduation rates need to increase significantly for Tennessee to meet its Drive to 55 goal for degree attainment. The purpose of this grounded theory research study was to identify and understand the different programs, initiatives, and strategies that have been utilized at the five Tennessee community colleges with the highest retention rates between fall 2015 and fall 2017. The theoretical framework for this grounded theory research study was primarily based upon the retention theories of Cabrera et al. (1993) and Bean and Metzner (1985). These theories combine the complex relationship between the different individual, institutional, and environmental factors while also accounting for the unique factors associated with community colleges and community college students. A constructivist grounded-theory methodological approach was utilized for this study as twenty-two face-to-face interviews took place with administrators at the following community colleges in Tennessee: Columbia State, Motlow State, Northeast State, Pellissippi State, and Roane State. The interviews were transcribed and that data was coded using NVivo along with the artifacts collected from the sites and the email correspondence from all of the participants. The following student retention themes emerged from the data: institutional vision and leadership focused on student success, committed and student-focused faculty and staff, collaboration and alignment of success services, and the retention of underserved students. In summary, this study found that these community colleges all have an overall framework for student retention, dedicated and passionate administrators, faculty, and staff; a student-centered approach to student retention, and numerous strategies to identify and serve underserved populations on campus. There was not a silver bullet identified across the institutions except for the caring administrators, staff, and faculty on each campus that build relationships with their students. Student retention was impacted by the multitude of retention strategies, initiatives, and people on campus that work in partnership to best serve their students.


Data is provided by the student.

Library Comment

Dissertation or thesis originally submitted to ProQuest