Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Leadership and Research

Document Type



This study examined student-level data to identify factors that predict student departure from an undergraduate nursing program. National nursing shortages, declining enrollment, and high rates of attrition pose significant concerns for undergraduate nursing programs. The following research questions guided this study: 1) Which student-level variables predict nursing student dropout risks over time? 2) Which student-level variables predict nursing student retention over time? and 3) When are nursing students most likely to drop out?

The methodological approach was event history analysis, a form of linear regression that measures the likelihood of an event (nursing student dropout) at a particular time (semesters in the nursing program), based on covariate factors. Variables included age at admission, race/ethnicity, gender, pre-nursing GPA, grade in the pre-requisite pathophysiology course, and entrance exam score. Time-varying regressors included semester-specific GPA and financial aid status. Data analysis revealed a significant dropout risk associated with older age at admission, lower entrance exam scores, lower pre-nursing GPA, and lower grades (C or lower) in the pathophysiology course. In models including the time-varying regressors, only semester-specific GPA achieved statistical significance in predicting dropout risk. In both unadjusted and adjusted models, students of Color were more likely to drop out than White students, with Asian students being at highest risk. Financial aid presented a complex effect on dropout risk, with conflicting predictions for different semesters. When coded as a dichotomous variable, some financial aid decreased overall dropout risk compared with no aid. Students were most likely to drop out in the first semester of the 5-semester clinical program. The study institution can use these results to inform decisions on retention efforts aimed at first-semester students, increased efforts for scholarships, and potential curricular changes in the pathophysiology course.



Committee Chair

Clayton, Ashley