School of Education


Doctor of Philosophy


Rebecca Lunde


Sense of Belonging, Academic Success, Traditional Students, Non-traditional Students, Academic Engagement, Social Engagement


Education | Educational Leadership


With an ever-increasing number of non-traditional students enrolling each year, the importance of ensuring their academic success falls primarily on the higher education institutions (HEIs). Each institution has its recipe for success and mostly consists of a student success office to assist when non-traditional students begin to show signs of markers for being at-risk. The reactive approach of waiting for students to show signs of struggle is missing the larger picture. The researcher utilized quantitative correlative and predictive correlative studies to determine if a direct correlation existed between non-traditional students’ perceived sense of belonging, which is at the core of inclusion, and their academic success. The Yorke Belongingness Survey in Higher Education (YBS) was given to both traditional and non-traditional undergraduate students at a rural private university in West Texas with several campuses nationwide within the United States. The class size was 298 students with a 48.3% return rate on survey (n=41 traditional, n=87 traditional). IBM SPSS statistical software was used to analyze the data. A t test and bivariate regression analysis were performed to determine a correlation between traditional and non-traditional students’ sense of belonging and academic success. The researcher was not able to reject the null hypotheses for the t test or the bivariate regression analysis due to a small effect size. The direct correlation between a higher sense of belonging and higher academic achievement could be a catalyst for programmatic reform.