Retention and student success : a case study of the factors influencing student retention in a rural community college vocational education program



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Community colleges across the nation have struggled with retention issues for decades. Questions of why students drop out and what factors influence the decision to remain or leave college prior to completion persist. Research has uncovered some of the influences on student persistence in higher education; however, community colleges, and to an even lesser degree, vocational programs, have received little attention. This case study examined the influences on student retention in a rural community college vocational education program which has a record of high retention and persistence to graduation rates. The qualitative research methodology employed examined the perceptions of seven current program students, nine program graduates, the sole program faculty member, and nine program advisory committee members. The results of the study yielded the following themes as factors which influence retention in this particular setting: program design, faculty, cohort, social aspects, the instructional environment, institutional support/programs, industry-sponsored events, and industry contributions. The findings suggest that community college student retention in vocational settings is a multi-dimensional phenomenon affected by a host of factors which collectively influence a student’s ability to persist to graduation. Future research regarding this topic may be able to utilize the results of this study to further advance the knowledge of student retention strategies in community college vocational settings.