Degree Date


Document Type

Dissertation - Public Access

Degree Name

Ed.D. Doctor of Education

Academic Discipline

Community College Leadership

First Advisor

Dennis K. Haynes

Second Advisor

Wytress Richardson

Third Advisor

Judah Viola


In the current labor market, individuals without a high school diploma or equivalent credentials are more likely to be un-employed, unemployable, or in a low-wage earning position, working two or more part-time jobs to make ends meet. Their outlook on life, and their future, is often bleak. Yet, by obtaining their GED credential, and enrolling in short-term career and technical certificate programs offered at many local community colleges, they are able to gain the skills, experience and confidence needed to open doors to new employment opportunities and a brighter future.

The purpose of this study is to explore the factors that influence students with GED credentials to complete and matriculate to career and technical education certificate programs in community colleges. This qualitative case study examined the intrinsic and extrinsic factors of influences from the perspective of GED students in career and technical education programs in three Midwestern state community colleges. Additionally, the research looked into the education programs attributes that supported their program success, as recognized by the college’s program administrators and faculty members at each college.

Through a multi-method approach data was collected from ten students, four program administrators, and four faculty members. Through the application of cross-case analysis, the data was examined both within and across each college. The findings were filtered through the conceptual framework of Lent, Hackett, and Brown’s Social Cognitive Career Theory (SCCT), Tinto’s Theory on Retention, and Astin’s Theory of Involvement.

The findings indicate that students with GED credentials, returning to certificate programs at community colleges are usually older adults who have faced challenges in finding and/or maintaining gainful employment. They are looking for career and technical educations (CTE) programs that are relatively short-term, offer classes that incorporate contextualized content with skill training, and provide an opportunity for on-the-job or apprenticeship training. Additionally, these students needed a program that provides not only the usually academic support, but can also provide the extra support so many older, first-time college students need to navigate through the institutions practices and policies.

The findings also indicate that successful CTE programs involves stakeholders in all areas of education, government, and businesses with an interest in education, labor, and training. Through a collaborative effort, agreeing on effective methods and shared responsibilities, these programs use a systemic approach at the state, regional, and local level to align workforce, education and social services into a strategy that benefits everyone involved.