Holistic Student Development Programming: DIII Athletes’ Academic Success and Retention Rates

Public Deposited
  • Public state institutions serve as entryways to post-secondary education and a better future for tens of thousands of students in the United States each year. State institutions, in particular, serve a diverse population, and they provide affordable access to education to underrepresented students (i.e., first-generation, low-income, minority, and ESL). Students who participate in athletics, especially those who are part of the underrepresented student body, are faced with a steeper uphill battle. The underrepresented student-athlete cohort is faced with a unique struggle over student success and course completion. Within the primary governing body of collegiate sports, the NCAA, there are three divisions: Division I, II, and III. DIII is the only division that does not provide athletic scholarships; thus, students willing to represent their institution competitively must do so with little to no institutional academic support. Additionally, the combination of underrepresented students and athletes causes a much higher level of inherent risk factors and barriers to success. Colleges are not required to provide any additional student support to student-athletes at the DIII level. Division III institutions, especially those who serve underrepresented populations, should play a more central role in supporting their student-athletes’ growth. Holistic student support services and development programs should be required to help students-athletes’ persistence so that they succeed both personally and professionally and become the best version of themselves. Therefore, this quantitative study measured the academic success and retention of studentathletes at the DIII level in 4-year institutions that primarily serve low-income, minority populations. This institution is unique among its counterparts because it offers students the opportunity to attend holistic student-development workshops that foster personal, academic, and professional success. The following research question guided this study: Does participating in a holistic student development program improves a student athlete’s GPA and/or retention? By exploring which programs, opportunities, and supports are most effective in enhancing the success of underrepresented student-athletes, this study informs the provision of the potential support systems and opportunities to enhance the overall student experience, retention, and academic achievement of these students. Further, this study can aid practitioners in the creation and enhancement of programs that help these unique students to succeed. The results showed that students’ experiences drive retention, engagement, and connection with the institution. Most importantly, it revealed the non-curricular knowledge that students are lacking but that that is necessary for their holistic betterment. The results affirmed the importance of supportive and inclusive relationships and the impact of connectivity and support on retention.
Last modified
  • 04/16/2024
Date created
Resource type
Rights statement


In Collection: