Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Teaching, Learning, and Leadership

First Advisor

Dr. Louann Bierlein Palmer


It is estimated that the number of students who will begin a course of study but fail to complete a post secondary degree is between 28.5% (Tinto, 1993) and 50% (Brawer, 1990). This qualitative study reviewed sixteen students enrolled at a private Christian college who were deemed to be at risk based on specific pre-enrollment data but had successfully persisted into their senior year of college. Tinto's Theory of Departure and the role of mentoring were used as lenses to determine: (1) the role of individual intentions and commitments in their persistence; (2) the impact of social and educational congruence on remaining enrolled; and (3) the influence of interaction with institutional community members on persistence.

The most significant findings regarding these at risk students who had persisted are: (1) peers play a significant role in the educational development of students; (2) social transitions are impacted by interaction with peers; (3) peers influence faith development; (4) faculty are integral in transition issues; and (5) faith development is impacted by interaction with faculty. In each of these cases, variations of mentoring relationships were reported by at risk students.

This study concluded Tinto's model was applicable to this population in that participants did develop commitments and intentions while interacting with thesocial and educational systems of the institution. Some participants however, discovered the intentions and commitments they possessed prior to enrollment aligned with those of the institution. This leads to the possibility that at risk students at private Christian colleges go through a process of confirmation rather than alignment in regards to their personal intentions. Additionally, the significant impact of peers suggests the need for further study in areas such as theimpact living arrangements and informal peer mentoring can have on the ability of at risk students to persist within this setting.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access