Degree Name

EdD (Doctor of Education)


Educational Leadership

Date of Award


Committee Chair or Co-Chairs

James H. Lampley

Committee Members

Donald W. Good, Tammy Barnes, Terrence A. Tollefson


Each year millions of young people graduate from high school and enroll in colleges and universities across the country, and many of these students are underprepared for the demands and academic rigor of college-level courses. The purpose of this study was to determine whether there were significant differences in graduation rates between students who entered college academically underprepared and those who entered academically prepared to enroll in college-level courses.

The subjects of the study were a selected group of students enrolled at a public, 2-year comprehensive community college located in Northeast Tennessee. The criteria used for selecting the subjects included: (1) Individuals who graduated from high school in the months of December through July in each of the years 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2006 and enrolled as first-time, full-time students during the fall semester immediately following high school graduation; (2) individuals who were classified as full-time students at the community college because they enrolled for a course load of 12 or more semester credit hours; and (3) individuals who had completed the ACT assessment test and were placed in developmental-level courses or college-level courses based on ACT subscores. Students scoring lower than 19 on the ACT in the areas of English, reading, and mathematics were required to take developmental-level courses, whereas students scoring 19 or above were placed in college-level courses.

The subjects of the study were tracked for a 3-year period to determine the relationship between the number of developmental courses into which a student was placed and the 3-year graduation rate. This study also examined the relationship between the number of academic subject content areas in which a student was required to take developmental courses and the 3-year graduation rate.

The analysis indicated that students who entered college prepared for college-level work, based on earned ACT scores, were much more likely to graduate within 3 years as compared to students who entered college underprepared and required to take developmental courses. Further, the study revealed that the number of developmental courses and the number of developmental academic subject content areas students were required to take was inversely related to the 3-year persistence-to-graduation rate.

Document Type

Dissertation - unrestricted


Copyright by the authors.