Date of Award

Spring 5-18-2019

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

Brenda Williams, Ed.D.


Latino students, community college, retention, student engagement, student sucess


Students decide to remain enrolled in community college more so during their first-year of matriculation, than at any other point in their education. For the last three decades, community college leaders across the United States have been challenged by stagnant retention rates that hover around 60% (Mortenson, 2012). While Latino college students enroll in two-year colleges more than any other racial/ethnic group, there is limited research available that comprehensively studies the experience of Latino community college students.

This study’s purpose was to contribute to existing literature on first-year retention of Latino college students by researching the relationship between student engagement and first-year retention. A conceptual model was developed based on the theoretical framework from Rendón’s (1984) validation theory, Nora’s (2004) student/institution engagement theory and Kuh’s (2001, 2003) theory of student engagement, that collectively support that individuals who are academically and socially integrated learn more; develop a stronger allegiance to their institution; and feel like they belong, which positively influences their decision to persist.

This study found that there was no statistically significant difference between the way that Latino community college students were retained compared to their peers. There was no statistically significant difference between institutional engagement and first-year retention for Latino and non-Latino students. There were findings that validating experiences and academic performance were most likely to predict community college student persistence. Recommendations for policy and practice were provided for institutional leaders, policy-makers and practitioners, as well as opportunities for future research.