Document Type


Date of Degree

Summer 2017

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Educational Policy and Leadership Studies

First Advisor

An, Brian P.


Community colleges are a crucial channel for achieving postsecondary education success, especially for minority and nontraditionally aged students. Nonetheless, community colleges are inadequate to meeting national goals for postsecondary educational attainment. Most notably, the lack of a strong guidance of academic interventions stifles a student’s preparation to transfer to four-year institutions as well as to attain an associate’s degree.

The majority of research concerning community colleges rarely addresses the issues of low degree attainment rates from rigorous guidance of academic interventions by student status difference, including race/ethnicity, age, first-generation status, motivation, and academic preparation. First, few community colleges and associations have proposed and implemented designed guidance for students. As such, evaluating the impact of guidance plans in community colleges provides us with a better understanding of student success at these schools. Second, previous studies used samples collected from a single community college, city, or state, which make generalizability difficult to attain. Third, researchers have paid little attention to how the variation across community colleges differs across the nation in terms of the mission and purpose of the institutions as well as the students who attend these colleges. This variation may influence students’ academic curriculum and exposure to academic advising, which in turn may impact their success. Fourth, even though minority and nontraditional students are overrepresented at two-year intuitions, few studies investigate whether the impact of academic interventions in community colleges differs by race/ethnic and age.

Building upon the literature on student development in higher education, in this dissertation, I examined how academic interventions (i.e., academic advising and faculty–student interactions) promote student success after controlling for potential confounding factors at both the student and institution level. Employing propensity-scored based techniques, I compared student success (a) among Black, Latino, and White students, and (b) between traditionally aged students (18–21 years of age), and nontraditionally aged students (24 years of age and older).

Using data from the Beginning Postsecondary Students Longitudinal Study (BPS:04/09) and the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), I employed doubly robust estimation to provide better estimates of academic advising and formal faculty–student interactions on student success. I measured students’ successes by determining whether students attained an associate’s degree or whether they transferred to a four-year institution. To accomplish these tasks, I first used a multinomial logit model to estimate the propensity scores of receiving academic advising and faculty–student interactions. I then created a sample weight based on the inverse of the propensity score. I used multinomial logit regression model, weighted by the inverse of the propensity score, to estimate the effects of academic advising and faculty–student interactions. Finally, I examined the conditional effects of academic advising and faculty–student interactions by students’ race, age, first-generation status, motivation, and academic preparation.

The findings indicate that both academic advising and formal faculty–student interactions benefit student success at community colleges. Specifically, academic advising increases student success of transferring to a four-year institution, but African American students benefit less from academic advising than their White peers. Academic advising positively influences both Hispanic students and White students in terms of their upward transfer to a four-year institution. In addition to academic advising, formal faculty–student interactions improve student success regarding both upward transfers and attainment of associate degrees. The positive impact of formal faculty–student interactions is consistent across students’ race, age, first-generation status, motivation, and academic preparation.

This dissertation contributes to the existing literature on community colleges in two ways. First, my dissertation seeks to better inform policy makers in designing academic interventions that can improve student development in community colleges, especially for minority and nontraditional students. Second, my dissertation contributes to the research literature on higher education by providing improved estimates that have stronger internal and external validity than estimates from past studies on the effects of academic interventions in community colleges.


xiii, 122 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 116-122).


Copyright © 2017 Wei-Lin Chen