Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


College of Education and International Services


Educational Psychology, Ph.D.

First Advisor

Nadia Nosworthy

Second Advisor

Jimmy Kijai

Third Advisor

Elvin Gabriel


Purpose of the Study

In a time of rising costs, social discourse questioning value of an undergraduate degree, and declining enrollment, institutions of higher education are under increasing pressure to provide stakeholders and potential students with measures of accountability and student success. These pressures renew the need to leverage student engagement data to understand what makes undergraduates successful in their academic programs. An understanding of student engagement factors is key to helping all students succeed, but especially to identifying areas that colleges and universities can devote their attention in order to improve their students’ likelihood of success. The purpose of this study was to investigate the relationship between student engagement and both academic performance and degree completion.


The present study was designed as a secondary quantitative analysis of non-experimental descriptive data collected using survey methodology. The instrument, referred to as the NSSE, was used to gather information on students’ engagement with their coursework, peers, professors, and academic institution. The data was gathered from 375 first-year and senior undergraduate students attending Andrews University in 2013 and 2015. Structural Equation Modeling (SEM) was used to determine a statistical model to use student engagement variables to predict for student GPA scores. Discriminant Function Analysis (DFA) was used to determine which student engagement variables were best able to discriminate between students who would and those who would not complete their academic degree.


Upon some revision, the SEM model for the first-year students predicted 19% of GPA and indicated that the most important predictors were Academic Challenge and Student-Faculty Interaction. Also, upon some revision, the SEM model for the senior students predicted 9% of GPA. This senior model indicated that the only significant predictor of GPA was Quality of Interactions. DFA for first-year students was statistically significant and predicted degree completion at a rate of 66.9%, with the best predictors (both positive) being Learning Strategies and Reflective & Integrative Learning. DFA for senior students was not statistically significant.


Engagement factors are important in predicting first-year student GPA and likelihood of degree completion. Engagement factors that predict GPA are different and weaker for senior students, and do not predict likelihood of degree completion. This study provides evidence for the increase of specific types of engagement to improve student success and graduation rates.

Subject Area

Educational attainment; Andrews University; Academic achievement