Committee Chair

Rausch, David W.

Committee Member

Crawford, Elizabeth K.; Bernard, Hinsdale; Rector, Jeff L.


School of Professional Studies


College of Health, Education, and Professional Studies


University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

Place of Publication

Chattanooga (Tenn.)


Community colleges are public educational institutions that are designed to meet students' educational and career goals in an affordable and accessible manner. While community colleges have expanded access to higher education opportunities, serving more than 5.1 million students in 2019, the number of students who complete their educational goal is remarkably low. Numerous studies have been undertaken to determine factors that contribute to student attrition in community colleges. These studies indicate that rural community colleges serve primarily low-income students who demonstrate lower academic high school achievement levels and have lower parental expectations to complete a college degree than their urban and suburban peers. In addition, community colleges often serve rural populations that are challenged by transportation, family, and financial needs. This dissertation examined emergency financial assistance as a strategy to increase student retention rates in the rural community college setting. The goal of this study was to provide evidence to assist community colleges in their efforts to raise retention rates and subsequently increase the number of students graduating with a two-year associate's degree.


This work has been a long term effort that would not have happened without the support of many. I would like to express my appreciation to my dissertation committee, especially Dr. Elizabeth Crawford, Dr. Hinsdale Bernard, and Dr. David Rausch, who have assisted with this process; special acknowledgement to Dr. Crawford who served as a motivator for me to finish and did not allow me to fail. I would like to acknowledge my University of Tennessee at Chattanooga cohort colleagues, especially Dr. Jeff McCord, Dr. T.J. Battle, and Tony Galloway who have served as mentors and guides in this journey. I would like to thank my past and present work colleagues who have been supportive of this process, including but not limited to Dr. Vickie Ratliff, Dr. Tony Robinson, Dr. Dale Lee, Dr. Ken Tucker, Dr. Bethany Arnold, Ms. Jessica Ketron, and many others who have inspired and motivated me to pursue my education and complete this degree. I wish to acknowledge my Virginia Community College System Colleagues at Mountain Empire Community College, Lord Fairfax Community College, Patrick Henry Community College, and Southwest Virginia Community College who assisted with the data collection process, especially Mr. Kevin Lee who helped organize the data collected for this study. I especially want to thank my husband, Burke Greear, and my daughter, Maggie Gatley, for their support in allowing me to be a student as well as a mom and wife and for pushing me toward finishing this goal. Thank you.


Ed. D.; A dissertation submitted to the faculty of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the degree of Doctor of Education.




Community college dropouts -- Appalachian Region; Educational attainment -- Appalachian Region; Community college students -- Appalachian Region


Community college; Retention; Emergency assistance; Rural

Document Type

Doctoral dissertations




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