Murray State Theses and Dissertations



The purpose of the investigator’s research was to examine reasons for attrition among rural community college students by way of Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) appeals. Seminal student departure theories of Spady (1971), Tinto (1993), Bean and Metzner (1985), and Braxton, Doyle, Jones, McLendon, Hirschy, and Hartley (2014) laid the foundation for this mixed methods investigation of challenges students face in meeting satisfactory academic progress as defined by federal financial aid guidelines: maintaining a 2.0 cumulative GPA, completing 67% of attempted coursework, and not exceeding the maximum time frame of credit hours for degree completion. Three broad categories of challenge emerged from coding of the quantitative sample of 1,171 students receiving financial aid from fall 2016 through summer 2018. Student academic performance is impacted by academic challenges, economic challenges, personal challenges, or a combination of two or more challenges. A combination of personal and academic challenges contributed to the majority of SAP violations. Quantitative analysis indicated students believed that making changes to their personal lives would make a difference in their academic success. Qualitative research utilized SAP student focus groups to explore in more detail the students’ understanding of their SAP status and sense of personal responsibility. The qualitative research findings corroborated the quantitative research findings in that students knew what had contributed to their academic poor performance and identified their role in making the adjustments to academic improvement. In conclusion, the investigator found that the reasons for attrition in rural community college students by way of SAP appeals aligns with student retention models that identify external factors as having the most impact in the student’s ability to maintain satisfactory academic progress toward credential completion.

Year manuscript completed


Year degree awarded


Author's Keywords

academic challenges, economic challenges, personal challenges, maximum time frame, course completion percentage, cumulative GPA, Satisfactory Academic Progress, student departure theory, retention

Dissertation Committee Chair

Ben Littlepage

Committee Chair

Sean Simons

Committee Member

Jay Parrent

Document Type