Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Higher Education Administration

Major Professor

Norma T. Mertz

Committee Members

Terry Ishitani, Dorian L. McCoy, Steven Waller


There is considerable evidence suggesting that low-income, first-generation students from low-performing high schools are not retained and do not graduate at the same rate as their counterparts. However, a good number of them do. It has been suggested that an explanation for this phenomenon may rest in differences in non-cognitive variables (NCVs) among similarly prepared students (Sedlacek, 1987, 1989, 1996, 2004; Sedlacek & Brooks, 1976; Tracey & Sedlacek, 1984). Thus, the purpose of this study was to examine the impact of non-cognitive factors on first-year college GPA for university-eligible students from low-performing high schools.The present study was guided by the following research questions:1. What is the effect of non-cognitive variables (positive self-concept, realistic self-appraisal, understands and deals with discrimination, preference for long-term goals, availability of a strong support person, leadership experience, community involvement, and knowledge acquired in a field) on first-year GPA for college-eligible students from low-performing high schools?2. Are there differences in the effect of non-cognitive variables on first-year GPA due to gender, race, family income, or parent’s level of education?Sedlacek’s Noncognitive Questionnaire (NCQ) served as the instrument for this study. Results indicate that collectively, the set of eight non-cognitive variables had a significant impact on first-year GPA. On an individual level, five of the eight NCVs were found to be statistically significant: positive self-concept, realistic self-appraisal, demonstrated community involvement, preference for long-rang goals, and availability of a strong support system. Additionally, as a set of variables: race, gender, income, and parent’s level of education were all found to have a significant relationship with first-year GPA. Yet, of the four demographic variables, only parent’s level of education was significant on an individual level.

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