There has been a lot of negative press about the state of higher education in the United States—students not prepared for the very jobs they thought they were learning about, students not attaining enough practical experience before they graduate, tuition and course-material costs skyrocketing, and the student loans they have to repay. So why are people enrolling at all? And once they are in college, what keeps them going to completion?

As a global education company, Cengage Learning wants to get to know college students better. The below white paper encapsulates what we discovered from 116 students we interviewed at NerdNation in spring 2014, in Orlando, Florida. In addition to this, just last week Cengage Learning met with more than 50 students at North Idaho College, as well as members from the NW chapter of Phi Theta Kappa to continue the conversation on student success.

An annual convention, NerdNation is part networking, part education, part awards show, and part pep rally. It’s put on by Phi Theta Kappa, a national honor society that recognizes and encourages scholarship among two-year college students, and provides opportunities for advisor and student engagement that result in long-term chapter and student success. To be eligible for Phi Theta Kappa membership, a student must have completed at least 12 hours of associate degree course work with a cumulative 3.5 GPA.

Over 4,100 students attended 2014 NerdNation, giving us a chance to engage with them and learn about their experiences with student life. More specifically, we wanted to know about their goals, what engages them in their courses, what digital tools they’ve used, and what advice they would give to college-bound high school students.

» Download the white paper, Motivating and Engaging Today’s College Students: Insights from Phi Theta Kappa’s NerdNation.