Date of Award

Fall 10-24-2016

Degree Type


Degree Name

PhD Higher Education Leadership, Management, Policy


Education Leadership, Management and Policy


Rong Chen, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Martin Finkelstein, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Robert Kelchen, Ph.D.


Undermatch, College match, College access, College choice, Degree completion, Postsecondary education


This dissertation investigates the prevalence of postsecondary student-college match and explores its relationship with bachelor’s degree completion. This study differentiates itself from existing undermatch studies by examining alternative student-college match scenarios – including undermatch, match, and overmatch and examining the phenomena’s relationship with a student outcome. Using nationally-representative data, this study found that 40.6% of students undermatched (or attended an institution with a selectivity rating below their academic potential), 35% overmatched (or attended an institution with a selectivity rating above their academic potential), and 24.4% matched (or attended an institution with a selectivity congruent with their academic potential). This study results indicate students of all backgrounds and with varying academic profiles mismatch in their postsecondary choice.

Related to bachelor’s degree completion, this study found student-college match to be a statistically significant predictor of future degree completion. Specifically, compared to matched students, the odds of four-year degree completion for undermatched students are 26% lower. Comparatively, the odds of four-year degree completion for overmatched students – compared to matched students – are 19% higher. Subgroup analysis indicates variance by socioeconomic status and race/ethnicity, but likelihood ratio tests provide evidence that such differences are not statistically significant, demonstrating that the relationship between student-college match and degree completion is the same across socioeconomic and race/ethnicity groups.