Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




College of Education and Social Sciences

First Advisor

Deborah Conner

Second Advisor

Jason Umfress

Third Advisor

Craig Boylstein


Retaining students in higher education is ever-changing, requiring continual evaluation and institutional commitment to ensure measures are implemented to meet the varying demands of today’s college students. Student-athletes make up a large percentage of the overall student population on many college campuses, thus, warranting further research to understand trends and factors that impact the retention of this key group of students. The purpose of this study was to examine the factors that contributed to the retention of student-athletes at a small, private, highly residential NCAA Division II institution in the Southeast.

The study focused on the experiences of student-athletes at an institution located in the Southeast region of the United States that is classified as a small, highly residential institution by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions in Higher Education, has private distinction, and is affiliated with an NCAA Division II conference. The study was qualitative in nature and collected data using six focus groups, observations, and document reviews. Once analyzed, the findings of this research study yielded six emergent themes of why student-athletes are retained: (1) college athletic participation, (2) personalized academic experience, (3) family atmosphere, (4) supportive teammates, (5) financial support, and (6) personal development. Implications from this research can be used by higher education institutions to increase student-athlete retention on campus.