The role of first-semester GPA in predicting graduation rates of underrepresented students

Susan Gershenfeld, Denice Ward Hood, Min Zhan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Academic performance is a primary predictor of college graduation, yet few studies have examined one of the earliest indicators of academic performance - first-semester grade point average (GPA). Given the considerable public and private investment in ensuring access for underrepresented students, a focus on the role of first-semester GPA for these students is particularly important. This is a study of 1,947 students at a public, flagship university in the Midwest who were enrolled between 2005 and 2006 in targeted access program(s) that offered scholarship and support services. A set of logistic regression models indicate low first-semester GPA is a statistically significant factor in explaining why underrepresented students do not graduate within the 6-year time frame. In addition to students on academic probation (GPA below 2.0 on a 4.0 scale), this includes students with a GPA between 2.0 and 2.33. Independent effects of race and scholarship/support programs are also assessed. Policy and practice implications are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)469-488
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of College Student Retention: Research, Theory and Practice
Issue number4
StatePublished - Feb 2016


  • College graduation
  • First-semester GPA
  • Underrepresented undergraduate students

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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