To read the full version of this content please select one of the options below:

Enrollment patterns and students’ risk of academic difficulty

Robert Matthew DeMonbrun (University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA)
Michael Brown (Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa, USA)
Stephanie D. Teasley (University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA)

Journal of Applied Research in Higher Education

ISSN: 2050-7003

Article publication date: 25 July 2019

Issue publication date: 17 January 2020



Experiencing academic difficulty can deter students’ academic momentum, decreasing the speed with which they complete coursework and increasing the odds that they will not persist to a credential. The purpose of this paper is to expand upon an existing framework that investigates students’ academic difficulty in co-enrolled courses by adding additional co-enrollment variables that may influence academic performance in introductory gateway courses.


This study uses quantile regression to better understand academic difficulty in co-enrolled courses and the impact that students’ co-enrollment patterns may have on their success in focal introductory gateway courses.


This study revealed significant relationships between student success and co-enrollment patterns, including: the disciplinary alignment of the course with a student’s major, the student’s co-enrollment in other difficult courses and experiencing below average academic performance in a co-enrolled course. Further, impact of these relationships often differed by students’ performance quantile in the focal course.

Practical implications

The results point to factors related to the student and their co-enrolled courses that faculty, academic advisors and curriculum committees can consider as they design general education requirements within and across disciplinary majors.


This approach advances the understanding of how a prescribed curriculum produces interdependent pathways that can promote or deter students’ success through the organization of curricular requirements and student course taking. The paper provides a generalizable methodology that can be used by other universities to investigate curricular pathways that have the potential to reduce student success.



DeMonbrun, R.M., Brown, M. and Teasley, S.D. (2020), "Enrollment patterns and students’ risk of academic difficulty", Journal of Applied Research in Higher Education, Vol. 12 No. 1, pp. 97-108.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited