Date of Award

Spring 2002

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Barbara Krysiak

Second Advisor

Todd DeMitchell


Two recent movements have occurred in the name of equality of opportunity in a democratic America: the Disabilities Movement in higher education where increasing numbers of students with disabilities are enrolling in college; and the Self-Determination Movement (Wehmeyer, 2000; Ward & Meyer, Fall, 99) as it relates to transition initiatives and positive adult outcomes for individuals with disabilities. To date, the Self-Determination Movement has made few in-roads into higher education, and a relationship between the success of college students with disabilities and self-determination remains largely untested.

The purpose of this study was to investigate a possible relationship between post-secondary success outcomes and self-determination. Data were collected from students who enrolled in an open access two-year college. A two-phase quantitative/qualitative design attempted to answer: (1) What is the relationship between the success outcomes of college students with disabilities and self-determination? (2) How do students with higher and lesser degrees of self-determination understand and describe the outcomes of their post-secondary experience?

In the quantitative phase, the ARC Self-Determination Scale (Wehmeyer, 1995), and Demographic and Outcomes Survey (researcher developed) were administered to willing participants who disclosed a disability between Spring, 1993--Fall, 2000. The data revealed that students with positive success outcomes (retention, GPA, and employment, if not enrolled) had higher degrees of self-determination than those with less positive outcomes.

In the qualitative phase, follow-up interviews were conducted with four willing participants selected from the quantitative phase. Profiles were crafted and analyzed within the construct of Wehmeyer's framework of self-determination. Analysis revealed that the two students who described more positive post-secondary outcomes also detailed highly self-determined behavior. Conversely, the two students who described negative post-secondary outcomes, described relatively low self-determined behavior.

Integrated data analysis showed complementarity of results (Greene, Caracelli & Graham, 1989); the interview participants who had higher self-determination scores on the Arc Scale described highly self-determining behaviors, and the two students with low self-determination scores described low self-determining behavior within Wehmeyer's framework.

Recommendations for practitioners and future research that reflect the depth and breadth of knowledge gained from this two-phase design are included in the last chapter.