Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Degree Name

Educational Leadership

Department or School/College

School of Education

Committee Chair

Roberta D. Evans

Commitee Members

Douglas Coe, William P. McCaw, John Matt, Frances L. O'Reilly


Drop out, Higher Education, Retention, STEM, Student departure, Success Factors


University of Montana


This mixed-methodological study explored the factors that predict a student's likelihood to complete an undergraduate program in a STEM discipline at one campus reliant upon that mission. Offered in response to a national imperative for the U.S. to compete globally, researchers contend educators must better prepare a STEM foundation and inspire STEM careers. This study employed a quantitative and qualitative approach to (a) identify key indicators of success for students entering a STEM discipline, (b) determine that living in the residence hall had an impact on success, and (c) identify quantifiable drop-out rationale for students who did not complete their STEM program.

A discriminate function analysis was applied to the data extracted from the subject university. At the 95% confidence level, three indicators surfaced as significant. A student's entering high school GPA has a meaningful correlation to eventual graduation; an incoming student with a 3.0 high school GPA who declares a STEM major is 10.3 times more likely to graduate than a student entering with a 2.0 GPA. In this study, due to its at-risk target population, there emerged a negative correlation with enrollment in the College Orientation Course. The third predictor identified that living in the residence halls has significant predictive value on STEM graduation. An incoming freshman who declares a STEM major and lives in the residence hall is 2.2 times more likely to be successful than a STEM student who does not live in a residence hall.

A qualitative analysis was used to elicit the significant drop-out rationale of students who did not finish their STEM-declared major or dropped out of college entirely. A post-hoc, purposefully selected group of respondents derived from interviews with successful graduates identified students who had declared a STEM major but failed to graduate. They cited financial pressures, math and science challenges, and poor choices as their primary drop out themes. Successful graduates were also interviewed in the qualitative portion of this study to determine factors that influenced their success. Cited most often were interaction with key faculty, working less than 15 hours per week, and involvement in clubs and industry-sponsored organizations.



© Copyright 2012 Mike H. Johnson