Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation




Educational Policy Studies and Eval

First Advisor

Dr. Jane Jensen


Student attrition prior to the completion of a credential is an issue that has increasingly demanded the attention of stakeholders in higher education, particularly in the community college sector, in which less than half of all students complete a credential after six years. The costs of student attrition are high and widespread, ranging from the financial costs for institutions and federal and state governments to the personal and monetary costs paid by those students whose personal and professional goals are not achieved. With the ever-increasing focus on accountability for institutions of higher education and the growing movement toward performance-based funding, institutions are seeking to find ways to support all students on the path to completion of a credential. Building upon Braxton’s theory of powerful institutional levers that serve to promote student completion, Rendon's validation theory, and Schlossberg's theory of marginality versus mattering, this two-part companion dissertation seeks to progress conversation beyond levers of retention as programmatic approaches to increasing student success. Through interviews with community college students serving as peer mentors in a student ambassador program and community college faculty identified by peers and supervisors as high performing in the area of student retention, the researchers seek to identify common characteristics, behaviors, backgrounds, conditions, and values possessed by effective human levers of retention. In doing so, the researchers hope to identify common characteristics among successful human levers of retention in the form of peer mentors and faculty members. This work is in part a collaborative piece that should be read with Kim Russell’s At the Heart of Policies and Programs: Community College Faculty Member and Peer Mentors as Human Levers of Retention.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)