Electronic Theses and Dissertations



Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education


Leadership & Policy Studies

Committee Chair

Ronald Platt

Committee Member

Sean Holden

Committee Member

William Akey

Committee Member

Stephen Zanskas


It is a common perception among US employers, educators, and policymakers that there is a shortage of skilled workers who meet vacant manufacturing jobs requirements in the current workforce. Although opinions vary on who or what is responsible for this shortage, a bigger question remains: How do we fix the problem? The current study presented an analysis of students perceptions attending a technical college in rural west Tennessee and their reasons for leaving the institution. These perceptions offer insight into implementing practices to increase completion and retention rates at the institution. College research strongly suggests students motivations expressed by their reasons for enrolling, expectations, etc., do not vary significantly between students who stay and students who leave (Martinez, 1997; Lamping & Ball 1996; Kenwright, 1997; Davies et al., 1998). The 27 state technical colleges in Tennessee are known as TCATs (Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology). These institutions are the states premier providers of technical/competency-based training. Their missions indicate they are focused on contributing to economic and community development by training and retraining employed workers who are highly skilled (TBR, n. d., Office of ECD, para. 1). The study setting, a technical college located in a distressed, at-risk county in rural west Tennessee referred to as TCATR, was selected due to the increasing demand for technical jobs and the desire to increase retention rates due to the absence of a qualified workforce. This quantitative study aimed to analyze the exit survey responses by students enrolled from 20172019. Two research questions guided this inquiry: (1) Based on exit interview data, what are technical college students reported reasons for program non-completion? (2) How do technical college students rate the institutions programs, services, and areas for improvement based on exit interview data?Study findings provided evidence that 42% of students completing the exit interview cited academic difficulties as the reason they failed to complete their programs. A significant difference in institutional ratings by noncompleters as compared to completers and graduates was found. Noncompleters gave the institution the highest overall ratings, which supports academic barriers as their reason for leaving. This study also identified that students enrolled in cohort programs (e. g., practical nursing, patient care technology) were more apt to complete exit interviews and placement surveys due to program cohesiveness. Finding concluded that students enrolled in female-dominated programs were more likely to provide feedback related to programs and the institution. This studys findings could be used to initiate planning and develop policies that may contribute to higher student completion and retention rates for technical colleges in rural west Tennessee.


Data is provided by the student.

Library Comment

Dissertation or thesis originally submitted to ProQuest