Award Date

August 2018

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Psychology & Higher Education

First Committee Member

Vicki J. Rosser

Second Committee Member

Alice Corkill

Third Committee Member

Nathan Slife

Fourth Committee Member

Helen Neill

Number of Pages



The first year of college is a time of significant transition in a student’s life. It is also the time that provides an important foundation for subsequent years. Learning communities (LCs) consist of a group of students taking two or more classes together. The classes should have some level of curricular integration as well as social interactions that support the learning environment. LCs offer opportunities for students to participate in rich educational environments and create connections to peers and faculty that may make a difference in whether students are successful in their first year of college and whether they persist to their second year. Research on learning communities is rare, given their prevalence in higher education, and few include important factors such as socioeconomic status and parental education levels.

The primary goal of this study is to examine the influence of participation in a learning community on undergraduate students’ early success at a public, research-intensive, urban commuter university. Using Astin’s Input-Environment-Outcome conceptual model as a framework, this quantitative study used secondary data representing approximately 11,000 students to investigate the relationship between environmental characteristics, including learning communities, and outcome characteristics that are indicators of early student success (i.e. total credits earned and cumulative grade point average after the first and second semesters of college, and persistence to the second year) while controlling for demographic and entering characteristics.

The major findings of this research may indicate that LCs allowed students who were from historically underperforming backgrounds to persist to the second year of college at the same rate as the rest of the population. This research found that high school GPA was most predictive of academic success in the first semester of college while first semester GPA was most predictive of academic success in the second semester of college.


Astin’s Input-Environment-Outcome model; Early student success; Learning communities; Persistence; Retention



File Format


Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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