Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Leadership - Higher Education

Committee Chair/Advisor

Michelle Boettcher

Committee Member

Christy Brown

Committee Member

Tony Cawthon

Committee Member

Kristin Frady


In this study, I investigated a commonly held belief in the field of higher education student affairs. Scholars have claimed 50% of student affairs professionals leave the field within five years (Artale, 2019; Davis & Cooper, 2017; Dinise-Halter, 2017; Frank, 2013; Renn & Hodges, 2007; Silver & Jakeman, 2014). Many scholars situated this issue as a problem for which they have offered possible solutions (Artale, 2020; Berwick, 1992; Buchanan & Schupp; 2016; Dinise-Halter, 2017; Frank, 2013; Jo, 2008; Lawling et al., 1982; Lorden, 1998; Marshall et al., 2016; Mullen et al., 2018; Renn & Jessup-Anger, 2008; Rosser & Javinar, 2003; Silver & Jakeman, 2014; Tull, 2006; Ward, 1995; Wood et al., 1985).

In my review, I found little evidence to support this commonly held belief and subsequently situated this concept as a myth. I offered attrition from student affairs as a non-problematic part of the labor market (Grissom et al., 2015). I then utilized the thinking of turnover contagion theory to explore the possible relationship between the myth and additional attrition from student affairs (Felps et al., 2009).

In the research portion, I utilized quantitative survey methods to evaluate whether student affairs professionals believe this myth and if high attrition thinking is associated with race, gender, job satisfaction, and turnover ideation. I found both 50% and five years as the most common responses for participants. This outcome and the associated level of significance (p < 0.001) from one-proportion z tests affirmed a likely belief among respondents in the myth. Using multiple linear regression, I then observed very strong evidence (p < 0.001) of statistical significance between high perceived attrition and low job satisfaction and high turnover ideation controlling for race and gender identities. I also saw varied levels of evidence for the relationship between high attrition thinking and race and gender while controlling for job satisfaction and turnover ideation.

As a result of these findings, I recommended practitioners and scholars in the field cease contagion discourse in student affairs. I also suggested scholars shift their research projects away from attrition solving. I invited future researchers to parse out the impact of race and gender on attrition thinking.



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