Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Agricultural and Extension Education and Evaluation

Document Type



With a critical public lens on quality student learning inclusive of 21st century communication skills, and organizational effectiveness à la retention and graduation rates, all amidst budget constraints and increasing enrollments, postsecondary institutions must adopt practices that are both efficient and effective. This study examined the educational practice of Communication‑Intensive (C-I) courses and its influence on the institutional outcome of undergraduate degree completion at a large, public research university.

In this longitudinal study, the researcher applied a quantitative ex post facto research design to analyze six years of official university data on undergraduates who entered the selected university as freshman in fall 2012 (N = 5,602). Following the MAX‑MIN‑CON principle (Kerlinger, 1986), students who completed three or more C‑I courses (n = 1,029) were compared to those who completed no C‑I courses (n = 2,717). Of the undergraduates who completed three or more C-I courses, 92.0% graduated in six years or less, while only 41.6% of those who completed no C-I courses graduated within six years.

Binary logistic regression analysis resulted in a substantively meaningful model for predicting degree completion with 70.9% of the cases correctly classified (n = 3,468). C-I course completion status (no C‑I courses, three or more C‑I courses) was found to be the strongest predictor of degree completion. Other variables that statistically contributed to the model were high school GPA, ACT English sub-score, first-generation status, Pell grant status, and gender.

To accredit its courses as C‑I, the studied institution applies criteria aligned with the principles of High-Impact Practices (HIPs) (Kuh, O’Donnell, & Reed, 2013). The finding that C-I courses are positively correlated with degree completion affirms that C‑I courses are operating as a HIP at this university.

This is the first known empirical research involving an institution-wide quantitative assessment of C‑I courses as a HIP in relation to graduation rates. The methodology applied in this study should be used as a framework for other institutions exploring the efficacy of Writing-, Speaking-, or Communication‑Intensive courses, and for future investigations of similar curriculum-based pedagogies such as service‑learning and research‑intensive courses, in relation to graduation rates.



Committee Chair

Burnette, Michael F.