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Document Type

Dissertation - University Access Only

Award Date


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department / School

Rural Sociology

First Advisor

Donald Arwood


This study examines social factors associated with the grade point averages of community college students. The major goal of the study is to develop and test a life course theory that integrates social class theory and social capital theory. Data was collected from a population of 500 community college students. Statistical testing indicated significant association between college grade point average and five independent variables. First, students currently in the middle class have higher grade point averages in college than students in the working class. Second, married, formerly married, and cohabiting students work more hours than single students and have higher grade point averages. Third, nontraditional students have higher grade point averages. Fourth, female students have higher grade point averages. Fifth, students whose mothers urged them to attend college have lower grade point averages. Other independent variables were found to be statistically insignificant for grade point average. Parental social class, both parental and student values of conformity and self-direction, paternal encouragement to continue into higher education, living with both parents, number of moves as a child, number of siblings, and hours worked were not found to be significantly related with college grade point average. The results of the research support aspects of the life course theory. Those social factors located in present adulthood, such as current social class, are supported by the findings. Those factors located in childhood are unsupported. Therefore, life course theory explains present life course trajectories, which appear to mitigate the effects of past life experiences and positions. This research contributes to the sociological literature by developing and testing an integrated life course theory as an explanation of varied academic achievement among community college students. On a practical level, the study offers those who work in community colleges information to better understand student academic achievement and thereby develop interventions.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Community college students
Academic achievement
Social capital (Sociology)
Social classes




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