Program Completion In Proprietary Schools

A Phenomenological Case Study By Susan Folkman Schulz

This phenomenological case study was designed to examine factors that relate to student persistence in proprietary schools. The goals were to gain new understandings about retention in proprietary schools, to describe students who persist, and to explain the personal and institutional factors that contribute to a student’s decision to persist or leave.

There were fourteen findings that clustered around four themes: Students, The School Selection Process, The Training Program, and The Influence of the Institution. The specific findings were:

  • Core commonalities of students and applicants.
  • Selection process and the intentional marketing plan.
  • Program length and the reality of program completion.
  • Negative outcomes of an abbreviated decision-making process.
  • The gap between students’ expectations and the training experience.
  • Built-in academic and social integration.
  • Built-in retention and intervention strategies.
  • Built-in formal and informal job readiness and job placement activities.
  • Changes in students’ lives as a result of training.
  • The effects of a warm and caring work environment.
  • The effects of staff background on relationships with students.
  • The effects of owners’ interests and beliefs on school policies.
  • The challenge of predicting student success.
  • The school experience as a rite of passage.

From the findings, the Proprietary Student Passage Model was developed. This model describes students’ experiences from the time of enrollment to departure. Included are recommendations that can be put in place by postsecondary proprietary schools offering programs in the public sector. The dissertation concludes with ideas for further study on persistence and retention and recommendations to policy makers.