Eric Reed

Date Approved


Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department or School

Leadership and Counseling

Committee Member

Carmen McCallum, PhD

Committee Member

Rema Reynolds, PhD

Committee Member

David Anderson, PhD

Committee Member

Calvin McFarland, EdD


Postsecondary administrators across the nation are in search for effective policies and practices that lead to higher rates of student academic performance, persistence, and completion rates. In a time of increased accountability and diminished resources, the empirical findings of this study help administrators by demonstrating that resources invested in retention yield long-term benefits to the institution. At a large, public, 4-year university in the Midwest, the average 6-year graduation rate of students from urban school districts was 24% compared to the overall 40% graduation rate for the institution. Historically, students from urban school districts enter postsecondary institutions after persevering through school districts and communities that encompass a unique set of challenges, which warrants the need for administrators’ attention. For the purposes of this research, urban school districts are districts that are composed of both a high percentage of minority students and students from low income backgrounds. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the degree to which first-year programs impact academic performance of students from urban school districts. This quantitative study used secondary data to analyze the academic performance of 624 students from four urban school districts that were first time in any college students admitted at Midwestern University from years 2015-2017. An ANCOVA and a linear regression analysis were used to determine the relationship between demographical characteristics, precollege academic attributes, and student support services and first-semester GPA. The findings revealed that first-year programs were influential to student’s academic performance. Students from urban school districts that participated in the required first-year program and the voluntary first-year program earned higher first-year GPAs (2.81 and 2.41, respectively) than students from the same school districts who were not enrolled in a first-year program (2.24). Several variables were found to be predictors of academic performance for the student population as well: (a) high school GPA, (b) familial income, (c) number of attempted credits, and (d) number of study hours.