Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Higher Education Administration

Major Professor

Norma Mertz

Committee Members

E. Grady Bogue, Ralph Brockett, Lane Morris


Educational assistance programs have existed in the United States since as early as 1952. These programs, in which employers pay for employees to complete post-secondary coursework, are popular among employers as recruitment and retention tools (Babcock, 2009; Buddin & Kapur, 2002; Cappelli, 2004; Manchester, 2008; Meisler, 2004; SHRM, 2009). They are viewed by employees as a means to accomplish personal goals (Jacobs, Skillings, & Yu, 2001). Yet, at last count, only 8% to 9% of eligible employees participated in classes through educational assistance (General Accounting Office, 1996). Little is known about why employees choose not to participate in educational assistance programs, nor about the role of the supervisor in non-participation decisions. The purpose of the study was to examine the impact of supervisor support on non-participation in an educational assistance program.

Data were collected through interviews with 15 university employees who had not taken free college classes through a university’s educational assistance program. The researcher analyzed and coded transcripts on an individual basis and then comparatively to identify emergent themes and categories. It was found that these participants chose not to participate in educational assistance due to four reasons: time constraints, early career financial concerns, past educational experiences, and lack of interest, with time constraints as the predominant reason. This finding was fairly consistent with the existing research and literature. It was further found that supervisors did not play a role, or played a minor role, in the decision not to participate. This finding was surprising, in that the literature suggests that supervisors play a significant role in employee development decisions.

Cross’s (1981) Chain of Response (COR) Model was utilized as a conceptual framework for the study, and proved helpful in identifying processes and relationships underlying participants’ non-participation decisions. It also provided a means through which to consider the interplay between individual motivation and environmental factors in participation decisions.

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