Date of Award

Spring 3-5-2021

Degree Type


Degree Name

PhD Higher Education Leadership, Management, Policy


Education Leadership, Management and Policy


Dr. Rong Chen

Committee Member

Dr. Robert Kelchen

Committee Member

Dr. Michael Kuchar


Grit, HSI, Student Success, Latino Student Retention



In 2016, Hispanic students comprised 19 percent of all college students in the US, an increase of 11 percent over the last twenty years, representing the fastest-growing demographic in higher education. Latino students are half as likely as white students to gain a bachelor’s degree, a gap that has been continuously widening since the 2000s. There has become an increased need for schools to create student success pathways for Latino students on college campuses.

This study’s purpose was to contribute to the existing literature on Latino college students' first-year retention by researching the relationship between grit and first-year retention at an HSI. A conceptual model was developed based on the theoretical framework of Tinto’s Student Departure Theory (1975) and Nora’s student/institutional engagement theory (2004), both of which highlight the theory that students who are engaged and feel as though they are part of the college community learn more, and in turn, positively affect their decision to persist from year to year. Combining these two theories with the concept of grit, the "perseverance, and passion for long-term goals” (Duckworth et al., 2007), this study hypothesized that there would be a positive relationship between grit and first-year retention when controlling for all other factors at an HSI. It was thought that individuals with a higher grit score would have a greater likelihood of a first-year retention rate.

This study found that there was no statistical significance between grit and first-year student retention. It was discovered that there was a significant relationship between retention and first-semester GPA. Recommendations for policy and practice and future research opportunities were provided for institutional leaders, policymakers, and practitioners.

Keywords: Latino Students, Hispanic Serving Institutions, Retention, and Grit