Date of Award

Fall 12-2008

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Leadership and Research

Committee Chair

John Rachal

Committee Member 2

Lee Pierce

Committee Member 3

Diane Fisher

Committee Member 4

James T. Johnson


Student organizations have been contributing to adult education for years. The need to recruit non-traditional students and retain them is very important to the financial support of the career and technical program. If a career-technical student organization (CTSO) can encourage retention and completion of traditional and non-traditional students in a field of study, the state might realize the need to increase the funding provided to the advisers/instructors of the CTSO and the financial support of the CTSO. This study investigated what motivates a student to become an active member in a CTSO and to what extent the CTSO contributed to non-traditional and traditional students' GPAs and completion/graduation rates.

Permission from a rural community college in MS was given to view data of career and technical students enrolled in 2006-2007, specifically CTSO membership, identification of traditional and non-traditional students, GPAs for each quarter, and graduation rates. Rosters from four CTSOs were used: Phi Beta Lambda, National-Technical Honor Society, Health Occupations Students of America, and SkillsUSA. The qualitative portion interviewed 24 students using a set of core questions that identified some of the factors that influenced them to join or not to join a CTSO, the impact the CTSO did or did not have on their college experience, the benefits gained from being active, and the possible reasons for not joining a CTSO.

The research found that non-traditional CTSO members achieved higher GPAs and higher graduation rates than non-traditional students who were not CTSO members. Traditional CTSO members achieved higher GPAs and higher graduation rates than the traditional students who were not CTSO members. Therefore, the CTSOs were associated with higher GPAs and higher graduation rates for all members. While these variables are correlated, interviews revealed that non-traditional students were highly motivated to graduate irrelevant of CTSO membership. Non-traditional students were found to be self-motivated and would probably have completed with higher GPAs and graduation status because they attend college with a specific purpose in mind. Support through CTSO funding and CTSO recruitment strategies are recommended. Funding and recruitment programs need to be implemented to inform students of the CTSO benefits.