Degree Name

EdD (Doctor of Education)


Educational Leadership

Date of Award


Committee Chair or Co-Chairs

Bethany Flora

Committee Members

William Flora, Don Good, Judith Slagle


The purpose of this study was to explore the relationship of honors education to student success by comparing honors-eligible community college students who met requirements to academically matched peers who opted out of honors participation. Honors program participation was defined as completing 12 or more credit hours of honors-level course work. The population for this study included 452 honors-eligible participants with 95 honors participants (HPs) and 357 non-participants (NPs) from a community college in Tennessee. The sampling frame was generated using a five-year participation window from 2008 through 2013. Propensity score matching alleviated the threat to validity for self-selection bias by controlling for confounding variables such as high school GPA, dual-enrollment participation, ACT score, declared major, community college GPA upon first term of eligibility, parental income, parental education, gender, and age.

Major findings of the study were: honors program participants (a) earned a significantly higher numerical final course grade in Composition II, a first-year writing course; (b) earned significantly higher cumulative GPAs the second semester after honors eligibility; (c) earned significantly higher cumulative GPAs upon completion; (d) were significantly more likely to graduate. Conclusions generated from the data analyses indicate that honors education benefits community college students and provide empirical support for increased investment in community college honors education, especially for high-achieving students experiencing poverty. Low-income students were defined as those students receiving the maximum federal Pell Grant award provided to undergraduate students with financial need. Within the study sample, it was determined that 50% of NPs met the low-income threshold whereas 47% of HPs were identified as low-income. These participation rates suggest that more low-income high-achieving students who could substantially benefit from participating in honors are participating less. Further empirical research studies and policy levers should identify ways to increase honors participation for low-income, high-achieving students.

Document Type

Dissertation - unrestricted


Copyright by the authors.