Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Policy Studies

First Advisor

Philo Hutcheson - Chair

Second Advisor

Hayward Richardson

Third Advisor

Carolyn Furlow

Fourth Advisor

Benjamin Baez


The growth of the community college has created an access point for many students that traditionally would not pursue higher education. Although community colleges have soared in enrollment in the last forty years, the rate at which students persist and graduate has remained low compared to four-year institutions. Studies on college persistence and academic achievement indicate that there is a consistency of characteristics among community college, low-income, and first-generation students. Behaviors traditionally associated with persistence, such as integration within the institution, are not characteristic nontraditional students because they tend to have closer connections with the environment external to the college campus. Missing from the literature are studies that examine the motivational factors that encourage persistence in spite of the risk factors. The twofold purpose of this study was to examine the effects of nontraditional students’ extrinsic motivation on their intrinsic motivation for attending college and to examine how the effects of environmental and background influences on intrinsic motivation are mediated through extrinsic motivation. Two surveys, The Academic Motivation Scale and the Factors Influencing Pursuit of Higher Education Questionnaire, were administered to 151 students from two community colleges in the Southeast. Through hierarchical regression analysis and path analysis the study examined how nontraditional students’ intrinsic motivation levels for attending college was affected by background influences (locus of control, perception of barriers, and self-efficacy), environmental influences (family and friends support), career goal attainment, and socioeconomic mobility. The results of the study indicated that career goal attainment, locus of control, and support of friends had a positive direct impact on students’ intrinsic motivation levels. The results also revealed that several of the background and environmental influence variables had an indirect effect on intrinsic motivation mediated through the extrinsic motivation variable of career goal attainment. The findings from this study add to the current retention, persistence, and motivation literature.