Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


College of Education and International Services


Higher Education Administration PhD

First Advisor

Jay Brand

Second Advisor

Candace Marie Bright

Third Advisor

Bordes Henry Saturne



Amongst the highest at-risk student populations are minority students (students of color), first-generation college students, students from low-socioeconomic status, students experiencing financial challenges, and those who enter college academically underprepared. Furthermore, studies have found a significant gap in the educational achievement of African Americans in comparison to other peer groups. Closing this achievement gap requires educators to take a closer look at the complex concept of student retention and understand the variables and factors associated with students’ successful outcomes from both an individual and institutional perspective. An in-depth examination of the effectiveness of strategies specifically designed for the retention and academic success of at-risk students is needed to help improve student outcomes.


This was a quantitative ex post facto study that used a chi-square test of independence, regression analyses, and descriptive statistics to address the research questions. This design is characterized by a non-experimental study that sought to examine the relationship between participation in an academic success course and the retention and academic success of first-year students at a Historically Black University. Data were collected from existing student data on 1,464 first-year students enrolled in the academic success course across the Fall 2019, Fall 2020, and Fall 2021 semesters. Purposive sampling was used to identify students on academic probation who successfully completed the required student success course in the subsequent Spring 2020, Spring 2021, and Spring 2022 terms, respectively, and achieved a 2.0 GPA or higher for their second term GPA. This resulted in a sample size of 176 students who met these criteria and were invited to complete the survey, of which 44 students responded.


Results from the study indicated there were significant differences in the first-year retention rate and academic success of students who completed the student success course (intervention group) and those who did not (control group). In addition, there was a significant difference between the first-year retention rate and change in first-year GPA of the intervention group and that of the control group when controlling for high school GPA, SAT/ACT scores, gender, socioeconomic status, and first-generation status. Completion of the student success course was the strongest predictor of retention rate and the change in first-year GPA (academic performance). Findings revealed that low socioeconomic status and high school GPA were strong predictors of both retention and change in first-year GPA amongst the variables. First-generation status also emerged as a strong predictor of retention. Results from the study also indicated that students who completed the student success course perceived attending the required meeting with their academic advisor within their college/department as the most helpful component in improving their GPA (academic success) and returning their second year (retention).


Based on the interpretation of the findings of this study, it can be concluded that a statistically significant relationship exists between completing a student success course and the academic success (improved academic performance based on GPA) and retention of first-year students at a public Historically Black University.

Subject Area

College Students, Black; Minority students; College freshmen; Academic achievement; College dropouts--Prevention