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Despite the rapid growth in online programs, online programs routinely face student attrition. How to retain students and help students successfully complete an online program is usually a top priority for online programs. This study investigated persistence factors that contributed to students’ successful completion from one of the largest and most successful online programs in the United States. Results show that both personal and program attributes contributed to students’ successful completion of a fully online program. Main individual attributes include interest in or career goals related to technology, time and effort invested, and perceived utility of learning. Main program attributes include relevancy of courses to individual or professional needs, satisfaction with courses and program, and ties between coursework and job promotion. Results of this study have implications for online programs in terms of prioritizing different attributes and strategizing resources to improve completion and graduation rates for fully online programs.

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This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Routledge an imprint of Taylor & Francis Group in Distance Education on May 2017, available online at doi: 10.1080/01587919.2017.1299561