Lisa Boice

Date of Graduation


Document Type



Many students who enroll in higher education fail to complete their credential. This is especially true for students enrolled in two-year proprietary colleges where almost half leave without meeting their educational goals. Students at these institutions are largely underprepared and mostly nontraditional; their attrition has dire consequences for not only their own success, but that of society as well. Because most two-year students who drop out of college do so in their first year, early identification and intervention strategies are critical for student accomplishment and graduation. The purpose of the study was to uncover key retention issues that students face at a two-year proprietary (for-profit) college and further, to determine whether or not these challenges differ significantly between traditional and nontraditional students. The population for this study was 54 students enrolled in the college's first term freshman seminar. Using age as the primary criterion, students were grouped as either being traditional, including 18 to 24 year olds, or as being nontraditional, including students age 25 and older. Students were assessed during enrollment and then again in their freshman seminar class called Strategies for Success. The data from the study were analyzed using a mixed methods approach which allowed the researcher to produce high quality results rich in detail. Key retention themes discovered included personal issues, family concerns, and school related factors. The study also identified six statistically significant differences between traditional and nontraditional students. These differences were related to student perceptions of their past educational experiences and their expectations for the future.