Date of Award

Fall 12-1-2020

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Committee Chair

Dr. Kyna Shelley

Committee Chair School


Committee Member 2

Dr. Thomas Lipscomb

Committee Member 2 School


Committee Member 3

Dr. Thomas O'Brien

Committee Member 3 School


Committee Member 4

Dr. Richard Mohn

Committee Member 4 School



U.S. community colleges play a unique role in providing higher education opportunities for members of society and are often viewed as the gateway to a post-secondary education (Savi, 2011). Two-year colleges foster a robust mission that is supported by a variety of curricular functions that tailor to a diverse student population. Furthermore, through an open-door policy, admittance only requires a high school diploma or equivalent. The aforementioned factors have created inherent challenges associated with student persistence, institutional retention, program completion, and graduation rates among community colleges. As compared to universities, community colleges have lower graduation and retention rates.

Researchers suggest that student persistence is influenced by the social and academic integration of students into college life. Scholars have posited that the classroom represents the site for social and academic integration. Additionally, researchers suggest that there is a positive relationship between transformational leadership characteristics that are exhibited by instructors and outcomes such as extra effort of students, effectiveness of the instructor, and satisfaction with the instructor. However, there is a limited amount of research that explores the association between instructor leadership and the aforesaid outcomes in two-year colleges. Also missing is an exploration of the association between instructor leadership and students’ motivation to persist in a course. The purpose of this study was to determine if the findings of previous transformational leadership studies translate to community college students. A second goal of the study was to add to the limited body of existing knowledge concerning the relationship between student persistence/withdrawal from a course and instructor leadership.

The findings of this study support the results of previous transformational leadership research and indicate that they are applicable to community colleges in Mississippi. Furthermore, the findings revealed a direct and positive association between instructor leadership and students’ motivation to persist in courses. The discoveries also indicated that transactional leadership characteristics exhibited by instructors contributed the most to predicting students’ motivation to persist in a course.

Among a sample of community college students who voluntarily withdrew from a course, they indicated that grade related reasons had the most influence on their decision to withdraw from a course. Additionally, surveyed community college instructors believed that grade related reasons exhibit the most influence on a student’s decision to withdraw. Participant responses, both students and instructors, to an open-ended item on the survey, suggest that personal/family and health/medical related reasons were the most frequently indicated reasons for withdrawing. Additional reasons for withdrawing were related to the COVID-19 pandemic, finance/financial aid, job, online/virtual instruction, and grades.