Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department

Adult, Career and Higher Education

Major Professor

William H. Young, III, Ed.D.

Committee Member

Yi-Hsin Chen, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Jody Conway, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Thomas E. Miller, Ph.D.


Attrition, Pre-Entry Characteristics, Retention, Student Completion


The purpose of this study was to investigate whether certain student-entry characteristics collected from an admissions application from one nursing school’s graduate (master’s degree) programs had a statistically significant relationship with student persistence. Specifically, the study determined if the variables sex, age at matriculation, U.S. citizenship, state residency status, most recent schooling year, last statistics course taken and grade, graduate-level program of study, and credit hours identified on the graduate nursing admissions application and school transcripts, had a statistically significant relationship in predicting student persistence to graduation. If a relationship existed, it would contribute to graduate student persistence literature and influence how educators and student affairs professionals can identify and support students at risk.

The population was the graduate nursing students who enrolled at a large public research university in the Pacific Northwest of the United States during Spring 2005 through the Fall 2009 terms. Graduate students meeting inclusion criteria had data extrapolated from the college’s database; including, the pre-entry characteristics, total credit hours completed, and if (and when) they graduated from their program of study. Astin’s (1985) Input-Environment-Outcomes (I-E-O) Model was the theoretical framework utilized in this study.

Out of the 405 graduate nursing students, 257 students (63.5%) graduated within four years from time of matriculation, or 278 students (68.6%) graduated without any time restrictions. Certain pre-entry characteristic data were no longer accessible and not included in the data analysis (most recent schooling year, last statistics course taken and grade). The analysis showed that the age (p < 0.010) and type of graduate program of study one enrolls (p < 0.010) plays an influential role in student persistence to graduation at this nursing school during this time period. In summary, on average, those students who graduated within four years from the time of matriculation were 3.2 years younger than the average age of those who did not complete their graduate program, and the completion rates for practitioner-focused students were higher (66.5-70%) compared to their non-practitioner-focused (46.8-61.3%) counterparts.

The results of this study will have an impact on graduate admissions and recruitment, student progression and advising services, and faculty development. Graduate nursing student persistence has multiple implications impacting institutions, communities, and the lives of students. Future opportunities to advancing knowledge on this subject include researching additional pre-entry variables across multi-campus populations with larger sample sizes, longitudinal studies, and interventions to promote persistence.