Date of Award

Fall 11-18-2021




Doctor of Education

Degree Type

Doctor of Education in Curriculum and Leadership


Teacher Education

First Advisor

Jennifer L. Brown, PhD

Second Advisor

Tina Butcher, PhD

Third Advisor

Melody Shumaker, PhD


Retention of non-traditional college students has been a significant concern for postsecondary institutions, students, their families, and society. This study sought to explore the relationships between grit, academic mindset, first-year GPA, and the perceptions of students related to persistence. Braxton and associates’ Revised Theory of Student Departure in Commuter College and Universities served as the theoretical framework for this study.

This study was exploratory, sequential mixed method design, incorporating survey data from 2015 as well as qualitative interview data from 2020 and 2021. Results indicated a negative, moderate relationship between grit scores and mindset scores, a weak, negative relationship between academic mindset and first-year college GPA, a positive, moderate relationship between grit scores and first-year GPA. In addition, participants perceived that having a productive academic mindset, family support, supportive faculty and staff, flexible course offerings, and affordability could be factors influencing their persistence in postsecondary education settings. Given these findings, institutions should consider developing programming to improve faculty and staff support, becoming more family friendly, utilizing intentional and flexible course scheduling, and review costs of obtaining a postsecondary credential and begin to look for more ways in which college might be more affordable.