Murray State Theses and Dissertations


The purpose of this study was to investigate the understudied reasons for attrition among urban community college students by way of Satisfactory Academic Program (SAP) appeals. The researcher used a qualitative methodology to understand the challenges associated with the mitigating circumstances attributed to academic attrition resulting in SAP appeals. The foundation for this study was laid by two renowned student departure theories: conceptual model of nontraditional student attrition (Bean & Metzner, 1985) and theory of student persistence in commuter colleges and universities (Braxton et al., 2014). The researcher sought to gain further knowledge to identify environmental factors that cause nontraditional students to leave college before earning a degree or receiving a credential. Three broad categories of “challenges” emerged from coding of the quantitative sample of 538 students receiving financial aid from fall 2016 through summer 2017. Academic challenges, economic challenges, personal challenges, or a combination of two or more challenges significantly impacted students’ academic performance. A combination of personal and academic challenges contributed to the majority of SAP violations. The results of this study provide a better understanding of the support services and policies that are needed to increase retention rates and college completion for nontraditional community college students. In conclusion, the researcher found that the reasons for attrition in urban community college students, by way of SAP appeals, aligns with student retention models that identify external factors as influencing the student’s ability to subsequently persist.

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

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Author's Keywords

academic challenges, attrition, economic challenges, personal challenges, Satisfactory Academic Progress, retention

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Dissertation Committee Chair

Dr. Ben Littlepage

Committee Member

Dr. Randal Wilson

Document Type