Date of Award




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of Educational Policy and Leadership

Content Description

1 online resource (vii, 86 pages)

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Alan Wagner

Committee Members

Martha Asselin, Teniell Trolian


College, EOP, Mattering, Persistence, Retention, Students, College dropouts, College students

Subject Categories

Educational Leadership | Higher Education


The multitude of benefits of college student retention for individuals, higher education institutions as well as our society has caused many researchers, administrators and policy makers to examine the causes of college student attrition as well as interventions that can potentially increase the success of students in post-secondary education. This study expands upon previous research on college student retention by utilizing Nancy Schlossberg’s theory of mattering and marginality as a lens to understand the retention of college students (Schlossberg, 1989). Based on Rosenburg and McCullough’s (1981) seminal work on mattering, Schlossberg (1989) developed a theory of mattering and marginality. Mattering, defined as “the feeling that others depend on us, are interested in us, are concerned with our fate, or experience us as an ego-extension” (Rosenburg & McCullough, 1981, p. 161), was theorized to be critical to a student’s experience of connection and belonging to their institution, and, hence, would increase the likelihood that they would be retained by their college or university. Schlossberg (1989) used her theory to study adult learners in higher education and posited that increased mattering would increase involvement and learning for adult students, thereby increasing retention.This study was undertaken to examine the role of mattering on the retention of college students at a public, four-year, liberal arts institution in the Northeast. Specifically, the study surveyed “at risk” students in the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) as well as a group of non-EOP students at one higher education institution during the spring 2021 semester. To date, there has not been any published research that has examined the association between mattering and retention of students in opportunity programs. The present study addressed that gap in research. The survey instrument utilized in this study was the College Mattering Inventory (CMI). The CMI was developed to measure the level of mattering that students experience at their higher education institution (Tovar, Simon, & Lee, 2009). In addition to the data collected from the CMI, demographic, financial and academic data were obtained from the higher education institution for respondents of the survey. Utilizing the data from the student responses to the CMI as well as the academic, demographic and financial data from the higher education institution, two research questions were answered. The first question sought to determine if EOP students experienced higher mattering levels compared to non-EOP students. The analysis showed that EOP students reported higher overall mattering and higher counselor/advisor mattering compared to non-EOP students. The second question sought to determine if students who experience higher levels of mattering reported higher levels of intention to persist. The analysis found that students who reported higher levels of overall, student and counselor/advisor mattering also reported higher levels of intention to persist. Based on the findings of this study, recommendations for future research as well as implications for policy and practice were provided.