Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



College of Education and Human Services


Curriculum & Instruction/Literacy Studies

Committee Chair

Reagan Curtis

Committee Co-Chair

Marjie Flanigan

Committee Member

Karen Rambo-Hernandez

Committee Member

Neal Shambaugh

Committee Member

Samuel Stack


There is a focus on increasing the number of college degrees on national and state levels and a move toward performance-based funding for institutions of higher education. With these shifts, institutions need to study not only student persistence but student progression toward degree completion as well. This institutional case study of a single liberal arts four-year institution utilized academic momentum theory to examine college student academic performance trajectories across four years. Academic momentum theory poses that student initial academic progress defines a trajectory of subsequent progress and degree completion. Growth curve modeling was used to examine changes in student performance over time. Three research questions were investigated. The first research question addressed the initial level of student performance and growth trajectory between the first and eighth semester of enrollment. The second research question examined if the academic performance growth differed for students who graduated versus those who did not. The third research question investigated if successful mathematics remediation and graduation were significantly associated with student academic performance growth. The results revealed that students experience initial decline in academic momentum followed up by a recovery during the second and third year of enrollment and eventual growth in performance. Those who completed degrees at the institution showed a pattern of initial loss of academic momentum but regaining of momentum by the junior year. In comparison, those who did not complete a degree showed a consistent decline in academic performance across all semesters. The trajectory of those who were successfully remediated and completed a degree mimicked that of their college ready peers, even though they had lower initial GPA. The second and third year of college enrollment emerged as potential intervention points for boosting academic momentum and promoting student success. Further examinations are necessary to determine what events take place during the second and third year and influence the differential patterns of student performance. In addition, future investigations should study any gender differences in the performance trajectories.