Molly Duggan

Date Approved


Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department or School

Leadership and Counseling

Committee Member

David Anderson, Ed.D., Chairperson

Committee Member

Bin Ning, Ph.D.

Committee Member

William Price, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Jaclynn Tracy, Ph.D.


Community colleges are a valuable and important commodity in the education system in the United States. As of 2015, the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) reports that there are 1,123 active community colleges, with 28 community colleges in the state of Michigan. The AACC further reports a headcount of 12.4 million students based on Fall 2013 data. Nearly half of all undergraduate students are enrolled in two-year public institutions, thus recognizing the significant role that community colleges play in the landscape of higher education. The purpose of this study was to examine bachelor degree persistence of community college transfer students, utilizing investment theory as the conceptual framework for examination and further explore the role of articulation agreements. The goal of investment theory is to understand commitment to, and satisfaction with, a type of “relationship” based on ranges of duration and involvement. The research study included 20,995 students from a mid-sized Michigan public university that were admitted to the four-year university between the years of 2005–2013 with a minimum of at least 12 transfer credit hours. Investment theory can be used to explain likelihood of graduation based on a variety of variables, including demographics, performance at the community college, and performance at the university. The study also concluded that articulation agreements positively impact persistence and the components within the agreements have a significant relationship with commitment/satisfaction as well as graduation. Academic preparation and scholarships did not have a significant impact on graduation. Socio-cultural barriers were found to be present for under-served populations such as minorities and females. Age had a positive impact on investment but did not prove positive with commitment/satisfaction or graduation.