Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Public Policy & Administration

First Advisor

Dr. Sarah Jane Brubaker

Second Advisor

Dr. Seth Sykes

Third Advisor

Dr. I-Shian Suen

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Lindsey Evans


This dissertation examines first-year enrollment at Virginia Commonwealth University to determine what factors are associated with an increased likelihood of a student not being retained, and for which of these factors there is evidence that academic advising is an effective intervention. A survey of common retention models identified six factors associated with retention likelihood: student background prior to enrollment (“pre-enrollment factors”), financial support, institutional support, institutional performance, institutional engagement, and student intention. Prior research has shown that academic advising is an effective intervention for two of these factors: institutional performance and institutional support.

The significance of these factors was tested through a correlational, quantitative, non-experimental design using secondary data captured by the university. The sample population for the study was the entire full-time first-year 2017-2018 student population - a total of 4,215 students. A total of sixteen independent variables were tested, twelve of which served as proxies for retention factors (GPA, earned credit hours, GPA credit hours, credits brought to institution, high school GPA, SAT score, ACT score, in-state status, number of completed advising appointments, advising account holds, financial account holds, and administrative account holds) and four of which served as control variables (first generation status, race, ethnicity, and gender). The dependent variable was retention status. A binomial regression was performed to test for significance, and four of the independent variables were found to be significant at p<0.05: number of completed advising appointments (p<.001, odds-ratio 1.305), high school GPA (p<.001, odds-ratio 1.305), in-state status (p = .005, odds-ratio 1.499), and Hispanic ethnicity (p = .008, odds-ratio .371). These findings suggest that VCU should prioritize support and sources to out-of-state students, students with lower high school GPAs, and Hispanic students, as these students are less likely to be retained during the first year. Further, these findings reaffirm the value of academic advising.


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