School of Education


Doctor of Education (EdD)


Anita Fauber


gender gap, higher education, persistence, qualitative design, traditional-age college students


Education | Educational Assessment, Evaluation, and Research


The purpose of this qualitative phenomenological study was to explore persistence differences by gender, among traditional-age college students at a private, residential, liberal arts college in a Mid-Atlantic state. The number of students attending college has steadily increased. However, females have increasingly outnumbered males in college enrollment and persistence. This is a growing concern for higher education. The following research questions guided the research: How do traditional-age college seniors describe persistence? How do traditional-age college seniors describe experiences or beliefs that contributed to their persistence? What are the persistence differences, by gender? Twenty females and thirteen males (n=33) participated in the data collection which included focus groups, individual interviews, and follow-up email questions. Each participant also provided basic background information through a data collection instrument. In the data analysis phase, statements were categorized according to the research questions and then coded. The codes were organized them into themes. The most prominent factor that contributed to persistence for both genders was a combination of a goal, a relentless internal drive, and at least one supportive family member. Other factors included supportive faculty and a friend group that espoused similar academic values. Gender differences in the persistence process were unveiled. Females were more likely to initiate asking for help, especially during the vulnerable freshman year. Females also expressed more stress over grades and the college experience, in general. Males expressed more academic regret when reflecting on their freshman priorities. Males were more likely to attribute their persistence to athletic involvement, either on a varsity level or through intramurals.