Date of Award

Fall 9-2018

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)



First Advisor

Dr. Rhonda Bishop

Second Advisor

Dr. Sherry DeVore

Third Advisor

Dr. Wendy McGrane


College student success outcomes have become increasingly significant to many stakeholders as student attrition has proven costly for students, institutions of higher education, and the economy (Foss, Foss, Paynton, & Hahn, 2014; Jobe & Lenio, 2014). Historically, a positive relationship between college students who live on-campus and retention has been found (Astin, 1993; Bronkema & Bowman, 2017; Chickering, 1974; Pike & Kuh, 2005; Schudde, 2011; Soria & Taylor Jr., 2016; Walsh & Robinson Kurpius, 2016). However, commuter students now make up most of the current college student population (Skomsvold, 2014). The purpose of this mixed methods study was to advance the understanding of the commuter student phenomenon within the context of the institution. Quantitative data included first- to second-year retention rates and sixyear graduation rates for the three most recent cohorts of commuter and residential students at one Midwest university. The first- to second-year retention rate was 63.21% for commuters and 66.07% for residential students; the six-year graduation rate was 35.07% for commuters and 33.68% for residential students. There were not statistically significant differences in the first- to second-year retention rates or six-year graduation rates of commuter and residential students. Qualitative data were gathered using student focus groups and faculty interviews, including 16 and nine participants respectively. Responses were reviewed through the lens of Strange and Banning’s (2015) campus ecology model, and four themes emerged: getting from here to there, the double-edged sword of convenience, independence, and it is who we are. Based on the findings, higher education leaders should continue to observe and assess student groups within the context of their own unique institutions.


Copyright 2018