Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award

January 2015

Degree Type


Degree Name



Educational Leadership and Policy

First Advisor

Michael Owens


This study examined the importance of student retention and persistence and the role that student engagement has on those areas. Three research questions were posed for this study. The questions looked at the differences between national outcomes as compared to those in an urban-commuter, University in the Midwest; the differences between African American students and Caucasian students at this Midwest institution and the perception of engagement of freshman and senior level students. Student engagement was measured by the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) five factors (i.e., level of academic challenge, active and collaborative learning, student interactions with faculty, enriching educational experience, and supportive campus environment).

A nonexperimental, ex post facto research design has been used in this study. The university had previously collected the data. The data was collected from freshman and senior students using the 2012 National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE). A total of 1,241 students enrolled at the university in the Winter semester, 2012 participated in the survey.

Findings suggest that an urban, Research University in the Midwest, as compared to national student engagement rates, is competitive and rank above average. The university comparison of its African American students and Caucasian students reviewed that there are some disparities as it relates to lower perception of student engagement among African American students. The same university comparison of its senior level students and freshman level students indicated a significantly higher perception of student engagement.

Findings suggest there is a perception of inconsistency in a student’s engagement experience based on their student population or class ranking, which provides enough reason for further investigation. These issues are worth addressing to ensure a holistic student engagement experience for all students as well as remove any perception of disparity. These actions can aid in the proactive efforts to promote social and academic inclusiveness and student retention. These findings may assist in determining if current programs designed to engage students are effective as well as establishing new program models and interventions to increase retention and graduation rates of all students. Further research is needed to identify other barriers and factors associated with student engagement which could improve persistence.