Keeping the Promise: Impact of Project Promise on Students' Persistence from First Year to Second Year

Date of Award


Degree Name

Ph.D. in Educational Leadership


Department of Educational Administration


Advisor: Mary Ziskin


Project Promise, is a comprehensive scholarship program specifically designed to serve academically high-achieving, low-income students at a highly-residential, religiously-affiliated, doctoral university in the Midwest. This quantitative study investigated whether first-to-second-year persistence rates differ for low-income student Project Promise participants and non-participants and explored whether participation in Project Promise predicts low-income student persistence, when controlling for other relevant factors. Four research questions guided the study: 1) What are the demographic characteristics of the 2017 cohort of Project Promise student participants at the site institution? 2) What is the difference in persistence rates between participants in Project Promise and a comparable group of non-participants? 3) What factors predict first-to-second-year persistence among low-income students at the site institution? 4) Is participation in Project Promise significantly associated with first-to-second-year persistence when controlling for other relevant variables?The study sample (n= 138), pulled from the institutional data file, included the 42 Project Promise participants and 96 non-participants with comparable profiles. The dependent variable, first-to-second-year persistence, was measured by continued enrollment at the study site on the fall of 2018 census date. Descriptive analyses and ANOVAs identified the demographic characteristics of the program participants and provided context while addressing the first research question. Because the dependent variable was dichotomous, the researcher used Fisher's Exact Test and Logistic Regression to address the remaining questions.The group comparison analysis returned significant results (p =.019, OR of 11.122) and the logistic regression model was statistically significant illustrating that the chosen set of predictors distinguished between persisters and non-persisters (Chi-square = 57.022, p <.05 with df = 7). The resulting Nagelkerke's R2 of .840 illustrated a strong relationship between prediction and grouping. The study model's overall success of classification was 98.5%.Key findings from the study showed that 100% of Project Promise participants persisted to their second year compared to 88% of non-participants, total first-year credit hours was the only significant predictor (p = .026), and Program participation was not significantly associated with first year to second year persistence. While this study cannot support conclusions about specific causes and effects, it is possible that participation in Project Promise as well as other factors, may have "leveled the playing field" for its participants to some degree because, contrary to inequitable patterns shown frequently in studies, neither the race/ethnicity or low income status variables were significant. If the first-year persistence rates for Project Promise can be sustained over time, there is great potential for this program to answer the call for interventions that support low-income student persistence and retention.


Educational Leadership, Educational Theory, Higher Education, Higher Education Administration, Retention, Persistence, Promise Programs, Low-income, College Transition

Rights Statement

Copyright 2019, author