The Relationship Between Student Engagement and Student Retention of Adult Learners at Community Colleges

Date of Award

Spring 2021

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Business Administration (DBA)

Committee Chair

Blake Renner

Committee Member

Matthew Barclay

Committee Member

Brock Schroeder


Retaining students through degree completion is a challenge for community colleges, with nontraditional, adult students being retained at a lower rate than their traditional counterparts. Though student engagement is recognized as an effective strategy for retaining students, there is a gap in research on how effective these strategies are for retaining adult learners at community colleges. The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between student engagement and student retention of adult learners at community colleges. This study used secondary data from the Community College Survey of Student Engagement (CCSSE). Was there a significant relationship between the five CCSSE student engagement benchmarks (active and collaborative learning, student effort, academic challenge, student-faculty interaction, and support for learners) and retention? The population for this study was 26,326 adult students (25 and older) from the 2019 CCSSE cohort who were credential seeking at a community college (participants from 588 colleges in 46 states). Binary logistic regression was used to determine if there was a statistically significant relationship between each student engagement benchmark and student retention. This study confirmed a positive relationship between student engagement of adult learners at community colleges and student retention. Individually, each of the CCSSE benchmarks increased the likelihood of student retention. As a combined model, academic challenge and support for learners were the only significant benchmarks. This research confirmed that student engagement strategies are beneficial for adult learners at community colleges.