Date of Award

Spring 2013

Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Education, PhD


School of Educational Studies

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Daryl G. Smith

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

David Drew

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

William Perez

Terms of Use & License Information

Terms of Use for work posted in Scholarship@Claremont.

Rights Information

© 2013 Esau Tovar. All rights reserved.


mattering, sense of belonging, institutional commitment, community colleges, integration, engagement

Subject Categories

Educational Assessment, Evaluation, and Research


Community colleges continue to experience high levels of student attrition and low degree/certificate completion rates. Given extant literature, there appears to be a need to reexamine how interactions between students and the institution, and students and institutional agents are taking place, with the aim of identifying institutional practices that deleteriously or positively impact degree completion and thus guide colleges to develop action plans to improve conditions for student success.

This study examined how factors such as institutional commitment to students, mattering, sense of belonging, interactions with diverse peers, perceptions of the campus climate, engagement/involvement, socio-academic integrative experiences, and goal commitment collectively affected community college students’ intent to persist to degree completion. The proposed model tested the tenability of seven propositions examining how the above constructs interact to influence intent to persist. The sample consisted of 2,088 multiply diverse community college students. The conceptual model was grounded on Astin’s (1991) Input-Environment-Outcome model and was tested in the context of structural equation modeling. Multiple group invariance analyses for race/ethnicity were conducted. The conceptual model explained 28% of the variance on intent to persist for Asian students, 21% for White students, and 19% for Latino/a students.

Results indicated that transition support from family/friends exerted the highest effect on intent to persist across all racial/ethnic groups, followed by engagement/involvement, perceptions of mattering, interactions with diverse peers, GPA, goal commitment, and socio-academic integrative experiences, albeit varying by group. This study was the first in the literature to empirically demonstrate a causal effect between institutional commitment to students and perceptions of mattering. Mattering, in turn, exerted a moderate to strong influence on engagement/involvement, socio-academic integrative experiences, sense of belonging, and indirectly on intent to persist. Evidence in support of an omnibus “student development and success” construct, as alluded to by Wolf-Wendel, et al. (2009) is also presented. Of import to these findings is that while this construct explained a significant proportion of the variance for engagement/involvement, belonging, mattering, and interactions with diverse peers, the individual factors exerted an independent effect on intent to persist. Implications for theory, research, and practice are also discussed.