Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department

Higher Ed/Community College Ed

Major Professor

Thomas E. Miller, Ed.D.

Committee Member

Donald A. Dellow, Ed.D.

Committee Member

W. Robert Sullins, Ed.D.

Committee Member

Alan Balfour, Ph.D.


Merit-based Aid, Predictive Modeling, Tinto’s College Student Departure Model, St. John’s College Choice-Persistence Nexus, Student Success, Persistence


College completion agendas necessarily presume year-to-year student persistence. Institutional efforts to retain admitted students has emerged for a variety of reasons, some intrinsic and others extrinsic. Some of these reasons include (1) financial exigency as institutions strive to retain tuition-paying students or meet prescribed enrollment and retention criteria currently used in performance funding strategies; (2) reputation enhancement as institutions attempt to ascend annual publications such as the U.S. News & World Report which rely on retention rates as one of several indicators used to measure institutional quality; (3) gaining a perceived advantage in admissions, marketing, and fundraising as persistence rates have, for better or worse, become a de facto measure of quality undergraduate programs; and (4) mission fulfillment as institutions, especially public institutions, are tasked with contributing towards broadly cast social goals such as access to education, economic competitiveness, and community development. Knowledge about forces that impact student attrition is critical to the development of preventative strategies that seek to improve student persistence rates. One such environmental force that has an impact on student persistence is financial aid and a student’s ability to pay for their college education. While research examining the impact of financial aid on student persistence has accumulated over the years, little is known about how the loss of certain types of aid, specifically, state-based merit aid, affects students once they enroll in an institution. The majority of studies about financial aid’s impact on student persistence were conducted prior to the establishment of many state-wide merit scholarship programs.

Tinto’s (1975, 1986, 1993) interactional theory of student departure serves as the theoretical framework employed in this study. Tinto (1975) states that entering college students bring with them specific background characteristics and initial commitments that influence the student’s social and academic integration at the institution that, in turn, impact subsequent institutional and goal commitments and, ultimately, persistence. This study intends to examine pre- and post-matriculation data gathered through the admissions and financial aid processes to develop predictive models useful in calculating the probabilities associated with Bright Futures scholarship retention, institutional persistence after losing a Bright Futures scholarship award at the conclusion of a student’s first year of enrollment, and a student’s eligibility to recapture a Bright Futures scholarship award in their third year of enrollment. Data was collected passively from institutional databases on 2,418 students meeting the study criteria for inclusion in the model building process. Findings indicate that the models developed throughout the course of this study hold potential for informing institutional retention initiatives among Bright Futures scholarship award recipients.