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The impact of attending a college orientation class on retention, persistence, and time to degree completion of first time community college students

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The impact of attending a college orientation class on retention, persistence, and time to degree completion of first time community college students
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College students ( jstor )
Colleges ( jstor )
Community colleges ( jstor )
Educational research ( jstor )
High school students ( jstor )
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Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Florida, 1999.
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Includes bibliographical references (leaves 90-105).
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Printout.
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Vita.
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by James Arthur Watson.

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THE IMPACT OF ATTENDING A COLLEGE ORIENTATION CLASS ON
RETENTION, PERSISTENCE, AND TIME TO DEGREE COMPLETION
OF FIRST TIME COMMUNITY COLLEGE STUDENTS










By

JAMES ARTHUR WATSON


A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY

UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA


1999























DEDICATION



This project is dedicated with love to my mother,
Myra Jean Watson,
and to the memory of my late father,
Joe Andrews Watson.













ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

I would like to thank all of the members of my committee for their support.

Special thanks are due to Dr. Gerardo Gonzalez, chairperson, for his guidance in this

project and to Dr. David Miller for his assistance with the data analysis. Dr. Mary

Howard-Hamiliton and Dr. Phyllis Meek both provided important comments and

suggestions.

I want to acknowledge the help of Dr. Patricia Windham at the Florida State

Board of Community Colleges. My gratitude goes to Brian Walsh who has assisted me

throughout this project. I also wish to thank Dr. Patricia Grunder at Santa Fe Community

College, and to Dr. John Grebb and Dr. Max Lombard at Miami-Dade Community

College.

Thanks also are due to all of those friends and colleagues who have helped and

supported me in this endeavor. I want to recognize Lynne Barolet-Fogarty, Dr. Elizabeth

Broughton, Myma Cabrera-Rivero, Lynn Sullivan, Dr. David Hellmich, Dr. Carlos

Hemandez, Dr. Barbara Keener, Dr. Caroline Pace, Dr. Sharon Pate, and Dr. Laura Perry.

I would also like to recognize the influence of my sister, Jane Watson, and my niece, Ana

Watson, on my life.

Finally, and most important of all, it is with joy that I acknowledge my partner,

Dr. Andres Nazario, for his unwavering love, assistance, and support throughout this long

journey.













TABLE OF CONTENTS

ACKN OW LEDGM EN TS ........................................................................................... iii

ABSTRA CT ............................................................................................................... vi

CHAPTERS

INTRODUCTION .................................................................................. 1

Theoretical Fram ework .......................................................................... 2
Statem ent of the Problem ..................................................................... 7
N eed for the Study ................................................................................ 9
Purpose of the Study ............................................................................... 11
Research Questions ............................................................................ 12
Definition of Term s ............................................................................ 13
Organization of the Study ................................................................... 13

2 REVIEW OF THE RELATED LITERATURE .................................... 15

General Attrition/Retention Studies .................................................... 15
Variables Associated with Attrition and Retention ......................... 17
Comm unity College/4-Year Institution ......................................... 25
Studies Addressing Tinto's Variables of Attrition/Retention ............... 28
Intention and Comm itm ent ........................................................... 28
External Obligations/Fam ily and Financial .................................... 41
W ork ............................................................................................ 43
College Orientation Course Studies .................................................... 46
Adjustm ent and Difficulty ............................................................ 51
Incongruence and Isolation ........................................................... 55
Summ ary ....................................................................................... 56

3 M ETHODOLOGY .............................................................................. 57

Chapter Organization .......................................................................... 57
Research Design ................................................................................ 57
Research Questions ............................................................................ 58
Participants ......................................................................................... 59
Research Procedure ............................................................................ 60
Data Collection and Analysis ............................................................... 60
Sum m ary ........................................................................................... 61









4 RESULTS ............................................................................................... 62

5 DISCUSSION ....................................................................................... 78

Purpose Overview ................................................................................. 78
Discussion of Results ............................................................................ 78
Research Question 1 ....................................................................... 78
Research Question 2 ........................................................................ 79
Research Question 3 ........................................................................ 79
Research Question 4 ........................................................................ 80
Research Question 5 ........................................................................ 80
Research Question 6 ........................................................................ 81
Lim itations ............................................................................................ 82
Implications of the Findings and Recomm endations .............................. 83
Implications for Theory ................................................................... 83
Implications for College ................................................................. 85
Recomm endations for Future Research ........................................... 87
Summ ary ............................................................................................. 88

REFERENCES ....................................................................................................... 90

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ....................................................................................... 106













Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy

THE IMPACT OF ATTENDING A COLLEGE ORIENTATION CLASS ON
RETENTION, PERSISTENCE, AND TIME TO DEGREE COMPLETION
OF FIRST TIME COMMUNITY COLLEGE STUDENTS

By

James Arthur Watson

December 1999

Chairperson: Gerardo M. Gonzalez
Major Department: Counselor Education

The purpose of this research was to study the relationship between taking a

community college orientation class during the first term and the retention, persistence,

and time to degree completion of first time community college students.

A computer search of the historical data base from four academic institutions in

Florida generated a sample of 1,400 students who had enrolled for the first time in

college. All participants were academically prepared for college level work. The

academic performance and persistence of students who had completed a college

orientation class during their first term was compared to students that did not take a

college orientation class during their first term in college. Measurements were taken at

the end of the first term and at the end of the first, second, third, and fourth years. An

analysis of variance model was utilized to address the research questions.








Results of the statistical analysis revealed that that taking a college orientation

class the first term at a community college does not have an affect on retention. course

withdrawal patterns, grade point averages, course repetitions patterns, and the total

number of credit hours at time of graduation. A discussion of the limitations of the

project, implications of the findings, and recommendations for further research was

presented.














CHAPTER I
INTRODUCTION

Student retention in the community college remains a critical issue in higher

education. Statistics show that approximately 50% of freshmen enrolled in higher

education drop out before completing their programs (Brawer, 1996). This number has

remained fairly stable since Summerskill's (1962) early study of retention. Over half of

students entering higher education start in a community college. Enrollment in

community colleges rose from 500,00 students in 1960 to over 5.5 million in 1991

(Alsalam, 1993). Researchers indicated that the dropout rate tends to be higher for

community colleges than for 4-year colleges and universities (Bean & Metzner, 1985:

Dougherty, 1994; EI-Khawas, 1988; Jones, 1988; Tinto, 1993). Cope and Hannah (1975)

indicated that approximately 50% of community college students remain in school after

their first year. Of those who remain, only 50% go on to complete an associate degree.

Many studies indicate that a student's decision to drop out of higher education is

usually made during the freshman year (Bean, 1980; Dunphy, Miller. Woodruff. &

Nelson, 1987; Fetters, 1977, Pantages & Creedon. 1977: Rootman, 1972). Furthermore,

the majority of students make their decision to leave school during the first 6 weeks of the

freshman year (Blanc, DeBuhr, & Martin, 1983; Gardner, 1989; Levitz & Noel, 1989;

Noel, 1985; Zarvel et al., 1991). These sequences appear to imply specific patterns of








student departure. Finding appropriate strategies to assist community college students in

the completion of their educational goals continues to be a priority.

College persistence is affected, to a great degree, by the process of interactions

between the students and the institution. A substantial body of research suggests that

integration into the social and academic systems of the college or university is essential to

academic success and achievement (Astin, 1977, 1993; Halpin, 1990). Yet. how students

achieve integration is not clear (Tinto, 1987).

Theoretical Framework

Van Gennep (1960) studied the movement of individuals from membership in one

group to membership in another. His work in social anthropology was concerned with.

societal revitalization and social stability during times of change. He identified three

stages in this process: separation, transition, and incorporation. Van Gennep theorized

that formal rituals and ceremonies help incorporate persons into a new community by

providing rites of passage. The theoretical work of Tinto (1993) acknowledges this

transition process and focuses upon the role of student integration into college life. One

of the principal transitions for college students involves moving from their home

community to the campus community. Into views colleges and universities as small

societies made up of distinct academic and social components. For students to become

incorporated and to establish membership within that society, they need to become

integrated into the social and academic systems that exist on campus (Tinto, 1993).

Spady (1970) was the first to apply Durkheim's (1951) theory of community and

suicide to the subject of educational persistence. Building upon Spady's work, Tinto








developed a theory of student departure from higher education (Tinto, 1975). Durkheim

suggested that suicide may result when an individual is unable to integrate and establish

membership within a society. Tinto proposed that this model is analogous to student

departure from education. Tinto (1988) maintained that during the freshman year

students may feel a sense of normlessness. He stated that "having given up the norms

and beliefs of past associations and not yet having adopted those appropriate to

membership in a new community, the individual is left in a state of at least temporary

anomie" (pp. 442-443). Integration into a campus community may also be more difficult

for students whose families, community, and/or schools had very different norms and

patterns of behavior than that of the new college (Chapman & Pascarella. 1983: Smith

1982; Tinto 1986, 1993).

Tinto (1993) theorized that students enter a college or university with varying

patterns of personal, familial, and academic characteristics and skills. These attributes

help to set boundaries of individual attainment and color the character of individual

experience within the institution. These patterns include the student's initial disposition

and intentions regarding college attendance and his/her personal goals. On the individual

level, the attributes of intention and commitment represent what Tinto refers to as

primary roots of departure. Intention refers to a student's value and willingness to work

for degree attainment. Researchers have observed that students who have definite or

advanced degree aspirations were more likely to persist than those with lower or

undetermined degree goals (Astin 1975, Lenning, Beal, & Sauer, 1980; Tinto, 1975, 1986,

1993). Commitment refers to both the individual's educational/occupational goals and to








his/her goal of studying at a specific school. Students with identified career goals and a

sense of purpose are more likely to persist in college (Boe & Jolicoeur, 1989: Gordon,

1989; Kester, 1980; Raimst, 1981). In 2-year colleges, goal commitment seems to have a

stronger effect on retention than does institutional commitment (Chapman & Pascarella,

1983; Pascarella & Chapman, 1983b).

The student's intention and commitment become modified and reformed on a

continuing basis through a series of interactions between the individual and the academic

and social systems of the school. Tinto (1987) suggested that once a student enters an

institution, experiences occur within the academic and social systems that involve

interactions with faculty, staff, and other students. If those interactions are positive and

the student becomes engaged with those systems, then the student's goals and his/her

institutional commitment will be strengthened. Satisfying and rewarding encounters with

the formal and informal academic and social systems are presumed to lead to greater

integration and to student retention. If the experiences are negative and the student fails

to become integrated within the institution, the student will be more likely to withdraw.

A wide variety of experiences and interactions with the institution will influence

student integration. Tinto (1993) identified four significant areas of individual experiences

with the institution that impact student departure. Tinto classified these clusters as

adjustment, difficulty, incongruence, and isolation. The experiential outcomes of these

interactions will reshape and modify the student's intentions and commitments.

External forces that influence interaction with the institution include outside

obligations and personal finances. Obligations refer to student responsibilities to family





5

and work, whereas finances refer to the process that subsidize college attendance.

External factors have been found to have a significant influence on student's decision to

drop out at commuter institutions (Bean & Metzner, 1985; Tinto 1993).

Responding to research that had been conducted with students from commuter

and 2-year institutions, Tinto (1993) revised his original model of college student

departure. Tinto addressed the relatively greater influence of academic integration than

social integration for commuting students (Fox, 1986; Pascarella & Chapman, 1983b;

Pascarella & Wolfe, 1985; Tinto, 1987, 1993). This emphasizes that commuter students'

involvement with the campus will be predominantly academically oriented contact.

Chickering (1974) suggested that, due to the nature of commuter institutions, commuter

students were less involved in extracurricular activities than their residential counterparts.

In addition, Tinto considered the influence of external commitments for community

college students. Tinto's revised model also includes intentions and external commitments

as influencing, and being influenced by, initial and later goal and institutional

commitments.

Institutions of higher education have few, if any, formal rituals or ceremonies to

help incorporate students into their social and academic systems. Orientation programs

provide a commencement ceremony that introduces the student to the new educational

community. The goals of orienting students to the resources of the institution and

facilitating their adaptation to the collegiate community has been the primary purpose of

orientation programs. Orientation programs are believed to influence students' attitudes

about higher education and help form the relationship between students and their








institution (Martin & Dixon, 1989). Tinto (1987) referred to orientation programs as "the

beginnings of integration" (p. 146).

The college orientation class, when compared with other forms of orientation

processes, more fully integrates the student into the social and academic systems of

college (Astin, 1993). The primary goal of an orientation class is to promote retention

through a student's integration into the academic and social systems of the institution

(Gardner, 1986).

The college orientation class is designed to provide students with an overview of

school and services available, develop their academic skills, and to establish connections

to both the academic and social community on campus. Pascarella, Terenzini, and Wolfe

(1986) argued that students exposed to a freshman orientation course will be somewhat

more successfully integrated into the academic and social system during the first year.

They indicated that greater integration produced by an orientation course would lead to

increased commitment and to a lower likelihood of voluntary withdrawal from the

institution.

Cuseo's (1991) review of the literature related to college orientation classes led to

his classification of seven specific curriculum content areas. The areas common to most

classes include (a) the meaning, value and expectations of a liberal arts education, (b) self-

concept and self-esteem, (c) problem solving and decision making: selection of a college

major and a future career, (d) goal setting and motivation, (e) learning skills and strategies,

(f) self-management: managing time and stress, and (g) interpersonal relations. Each of

these subject areas respond to one of the four clusters of individual experience with the








institution that Tinto suggests shapes the individual's relationship with the college. The

mentoring nature of the student/faculty relationship, plus the opportunity to interact in

the course, allows students to build relationships within an academic setting during their

first term.

Creating positive interactions is critical on the community college campus. The

community college has a special need to connect the student with the institution. A

student may spend less time at school than he/she does with work and satisfying family

obligations. Without the programming and developmental opportunities provided by a

residential campus environment, community colleges must develop approaches to

promote success and persistence for commuter student. Glass and Garrett (1995) found

that completion of an orientation program in community college during the first term of

enrollment promotes and improves student performance regardless of age, gender, race,

major, entrance exam scores, or employment status.

Statement of the Problem

The community college is faced with new conditions that could limit many

students' ability to succeed. Two related situations warrant close attention. The first is

the growing number of individuals entering higher education at a rapid rate. The second is

changes in college policy, influenced by new budgeting procedures and fiscal guidelines,

and its impact upon student development processes.

The state of Florida, as well as the rest of the nation, is experiencing a rising wave

of student enrollment that is not expected to peak until the end of the next decade. High

school graduations in the state of Florida are expected to grow from 89, 397 in 1996 to








approximately 134, 766 in the year 2008 (Business/ Higher Education Partnership. 1997).

As these students seek to continue their education, college and university systems will be

stressed to maintain current levels of performance. As it was the case for their parents.

the community college will remain the primary point of entry into higher education for

most of the new "baby boom echo" students. Community college administration will

need to find more effective and efficient ways of servicing this growing population. A

potential problem exists, however, in the possibility of diluting services to accommodate

larger numbers of students.

The second challenge has evolved from recent changes in the funding procedures

for higher education. The state of Florida has adopted new accountability measures that

community colleges must employ to evaluate their educational effectiveness (Florida

Community College System, 1993). Community colleges are now directed to measure

specific information regarding enrollment, persistence, and completion of degree

programs. Budgeting procedures, including monetary reward, will focus on student

program completion. Performance-based budgeting places an emphasis on the retention

and degree completion of students. Student success is assessed by quantitative

outcome measures. Institutions that can address legislative concerns with data will be

better able to obtain the means to serve various student populations (Grunder &

Hellmich, 1996).

Students who have not developed an initial educational focus may be penalized or

blocked from their goals. Current Florida legislation (Florida Statute 239.117, 1995a;

Florida Statute 240.115, 1995b; Florida Statute 239.249, 1996) is changing institutional








policy regarding course withdrawal, grade forgiveness, and additional tuition charges for

course repetitions and excess hours beyond degree requirement. These changes are

designed to make the educational delivery system more efficient. The time available for

students to pursue self-discovery and the clarification of educational and life goals will be

limited by the new policies. Problems are created when changes in policy create

roadblocks for student progress.

College interventions that provide students with early survival strategies can help

them to persist and succeed in college. Programs that promote student success also

facilitate the economical distribution of educational resources to a larger number of

students. College orientation classes can enhance student retention, academic

performance, and efficient degree completion.

Need for Study

Many studies have indicated a positive association between students taking a

college orientation course and their retention from freshman to sophomore status within

4-year institutions. Noel, Levitz, and Saluri (1985), however, noted that the study of

retention at the community college has been significantly less than that at the 4-year

institution. There is a need to look closer at retention efforts at the community college.

Most studies of colleges' orientation classes focus on the first year impact of the

course, but the long-term impact is not known. Napoli (1996) found that the impact of

social integration is greatest for term-to-term persistence, yet diminishes over time.

Belcher, Ingold, and Lombard (1987) discovered that the impact of a college orientation

class on GPA and the course's positive influence for nontraditional students diminishes








over time. It is not clear if the impact of initial retention success will continue through to

degree completion. Woodward's (1982) study of seminar programs at some selected

institutions found different results. He found college orientation classes to lack impact on

retention and felt it was due, in part, to the short duration of many studies. Also.

retention had been calculated at the beginning of the first semester rather than at the

beginning of sophomore year. He advocated that a 2-to-5-year longitudinal study was

necessary to determine real impact on retention and program goals. Tinto (1993) also

called for longitudinal studies of all retention efforts.

There is little information about the impact of college orientation classes upon the

persistence of students viewed as likely to succeed in college, and it is not clear the extent

to which college orientation classes at the community college benefit students with poor

academic skills. It is not known, therefore, if integration strategies are less effective in

promoting persistence for students academically prepared for college. Reinertson (1986)

and Webb (1988) stated that academic ability is a significant variable to understanding

retention. Astin (1972, 1985) and Moline (1987) found the level of academic ability, as

indicated by college admission test scores, to be a strong predictor of persistence.

Although dropouts scored lower on standardized tests designed to measure ability than

did persisters (Cohen & Brawer, 1982; DiCarlo, 1980), Tinto (1987) stated that less than

15% of all student departures results from academic dismissal. By holding academic

ability constant, a better understanding of the impact of integration strategies at the

community college can be achieved. There is a need to determine if a college orientation

class benefits students viewed as academically prepared for college.








Purpose of Study

The purpose of this study was to explore whether there is a significant

relationship between taking a community college orientation course during the first term

and the retention, persistence, and time to degree completion of students. This study

investigated if an orientation course has value as a retention strategy for the academically

prepared student entering the community college. An examination was made of whether

an orientation class impacts retention, the student's GPA over the long term, and the total

number of credit hours required to complete the degree.

The study retrospectively compared the progress of two populations over the

period of 4 years. A group of female and male students that has completed an orientation

class during their first term in college was examined against a group that has not taken a

similar course. Only students classified as academically prepared for college were

included in the study. For the purpose of this investigation, college academic readiness is

considered exempting participation in college preparatory classes according to state of

Florida standards for the fall of 1991.

To help understand institutional effect, subjects were chosen from four different

community colleges. Due to the inability to manipulate the student population's variables

in a "real world" environment, an ex post facto design was used in this research (Smith &

Glass, 1987). Data for the study were gathered through a computer search of the

historical database files at each institution covering the 4-year period. This study

investigated the variable of attending a college orientation class as it relates to college

retention and time to completion for community college students.








Research Questions

1. Is there a difference between students who have taken a college orientation

class and those who have not taken a college orientation class (in their first term) in

retention after 1 year, 2 years, 3 years, and 4 years?

2. Is there a difference between students who have taken a college orientation

class and those who have not taken a college orientation class (in their first term) in

number of class withdrawals after 1 year, 2 years, 3 years, and 4 years?

3. Is there a difference between students who have taken a college orientation

class and those who have not taken a college orientation class (in their first term) in GPA

after 1 year, 2 years, 3 years, and 4 years?

4. Is there a difference between students who have taken a college orientation

class and those who have not taken a college orientation class (in their first term) in total

number of courses repeated after 1 year, 2 years, 3 years, and 4 years?

5. Is there a difference between students who have taken a college orientation

class and those who have not taken a college orientation class (in their first term) in total

number of credit hours at time of graduation?

6. Do age, gender, and race interact with taking a college orientation course (in

their first term) to affect retention, course withdrawal, GPA, courses repeated, and

number of credit hours taken at time of graduation?








Definition of Terms

For the purpose of this study, the following definitions were used:

Academically prepared students are all students who are eligible to enter the

community college and do not test into college preparatory classes according to state

standards for the fall of 1991.

Attrition is the loss in student population from higher education in the normal

course of events.

College orientation class is a college level course that provides an opportunity for

students to develop effective strategies and techniques to succeed in college. The class

also provides the opportunities to practice these newly acquired skills in a supportive

environment while adjusting to the academic and social expectations of college life.

Course repetition is additional registrations for the same class beyond the initial

attempt.

Persistence is academic involvement that extends steadily without interruption

over a lasting period of time.

Retention is maintaining a fixed state of enrollment until degree completion.

Withdrawal from class is the removal of a student from a class prior to the end of

the term.

Organization of the Study

The remainder of this study is organized into four chapters. Chapter 2 presents a

review of the literature on community college retention as it relates to college orientation

classes. Chapter 3 contains a description of the methodology and research design of the





14


study. In Chapter 4 the results for each of the dependent variables are reported. The

discussion of the results, the limitations of the study, implications of the findings and

recommendation for future research, and conclusion are discussed in Chapter 5.














CHAPTER 2
REVIEW OF THE RELATED LITERATURE

This chapter presents a review of the literature concerning student attrition and

retention in higher education. It is organized as follows: (a) a brief description of

attrition/retention studies, (b) a discussion of some significant variables associated with

retention, (c) an overview of studies focusing upon Tinto's variables of attrition/

retention, and (d) a review of college orientation class studies.

General Attrition/Retention Studies

Attrition in higher education is the loss of students from the institution during

the normal course of their program. Retention efforts attempt to reduce the size of this

loss and retain a greater number of students until their educational goals have been met.

Summerskill (1962) reviewed 35 attrition studies conducted over a 40-year period from

1914 to 1953. His findings showed that approximately half of the students first

matriculated in college were not enrolled by the end of 4 years. In addition, he

documented that nearly 31% of students withdrew during or at the end of the first year

and that the graduation rate at the end of 4 years was just below 40%. According to

Summerskill, the percentage of students leaving college over a 4-year period did not

change significantly in the 4 decades studied. Ten years later, Cope and Hannah (1975)

observed that the national attrition rate had continued to be high for over half a century

and seemed to change little over time.








Raimst's (1981) summarized national statistics relating to retention and attrition

from all types of higher education institutions. His findings revealed that

approximately 35% to 40% of entering college students graduated with bachelor's

degrees within 4 years from the initial date of entry, that 45% to 60% graduated form

some college within 4 years, and that anywhere from 10% to 35% would never receive a

college degree. Similarly, Tinto (1987) stated that in 1986 approximately 2.8 million

students began college for the first time. He estimated that 1.6 million of these students

would leave their first institution without receiving a degree, and approximately three-

quarters of these students who departed from their initial institution would leave the

higher education system without earning any type of college degree.

Smith (1996) reported that among students who began their postsecondary

education at a community college in 1989-90, 37% completed a degree at some

institution by 1994. Of these students. 22% completed a certificate or an associate's

degree at their first institution. Those who did not complete an award at their first

institution spent a substantial amount of time there--an average of 14 months of

enrollment. Nineteen percent of 1989-90 community college beginners transferred to a

public 4-year institution, and 3% transferred to a private 4-year institution. Of those

who transferred to a 4-year institution. 38% completed an associate's degree before

transferring. By 1994, 26% of those who transferred to 4-year institutions had

completed a bachelor's degree, and 47% were still enrolled at a 4-year institution (Smith,

1996).








Cope (1978), Cope and Hannah (1975), Hackman and Dysinger (1970). and

Tinto (1975, 1985) believed that researchers have had a tendency to overestimate the

actual attrition problem as a result of definitional problems. Eckland (1964) stated that

early studies of attrition rates have been exaggerated due primarily to the failure of these

studies to allow for the prolonged nature of academic career and for the dropouts who

came back or transferred to other institutions. It is not unusual for students to

discontinue temporarily their college studies for a semester, an entire year. or more.

Because the loss is temporary in such cases, Rugg (1983) suggested that these students

should be labeled stopouts to distinguish them from dropouts whose discontinued

enrollment is considered permanent. When this distinction is overlooked, attrition

figures can be significantly inflated. Pantages and Creedon (1978) noted a beginning

trend in the literature to use multiple categories in classifying dropouts and non-

dropouts to allow finer discrimination between categories and clearer interpretation of

results. Yet, Astin (1972) encouraged the recognition that there can never be a wholly

satisfactory definition of the term dropout until all students either obtain their degrees

or die without obtaining a degree.

Variables Associated with Attrition and Retention

Several variables significant to this study merit individual review. The variables

of gender, race/ethnicity, and age are isolated for separate investigation. Differences

between the impact of attendance at a community college versus the initial attendance at

a 4-year institution is also explored to help understand what unique influences are

provided by each institution.








Gender. Studies have shown mixed results when addressing the influence of

gender upon attrition. Gender has been reported to have either a negative or neutral

impact upon academic progress.

Into (1975) found that women drop out from higher education more frequently

than men. Relating persistence to gender and grades. Astin's early research (1972)

showed that women earn higher grades than men in high school and in college. Although

he does not account for the phenomenon, he also found that women are more likely to

drop out of college after the freshman year than men in spite of superior academic

performance. Studies by Brophy (1986) and Ramaker (1987) concluded that the

typical 2-year college dropout was likely to be female, adding to the positing that

women are at greater risk of leaving college prematurely.

A study at Virginia's Mountain Empire Community College attempted to

determine the reasons behind an unusually high rate of student attrition. The study was

undertaken by reviewing withdrawal forms and conducting a telephone survey with a

representative sample of students. Results indicated that more females than males

withdrew from all classes before the end of the semester (Sydow & Sandel, 1996). In

contrast, other studies show attrition being higher for men. Kester in a 1980 report

stated that gender is one of the two most important determining variables relating to

persistence. His findings reveal that women are more likely to complete undergraduate

degrees in 4 years. Nespoli and Radcliffe (1983) and Adelman (1991) concluded that

females at community colleges were more likely to persist in their studies than males.








Other studies, however, indicate little difference in rates of attrition between the

sexes. Pantages and Creedon (1978) concluded that there was strong evidence that sex

was not a significant variable in determining persistence or attrition. Bean's (1980)

findings showed little evidence that men and women differ significantly in persistence

patterns. In a four-semester study at Atlantic Community College to determine which

factors affected retention, Wall (1996) found that gender and ethnicity variables were

not related to retention.

Race/ethnicity. The 2-year college student population reflects the diversity of

race and culture found in the institution's community. The 2-year college population

often includes a large percentage of minority students. The clustering of minority

students in 2-year institutions may be attributed to a number of factors, including

proximity, low cost, the open access policy, and social accessibility of community

colleges. Bower (1996) stated that the presence of large numbers of minority students

in community colleges makes the issue of minority students' achievement an important

issue for these institutions. Bower pointed out that when they enter the community

college, many minority freshmen will also bring with them one or more academic "at-

risk" characteristics. Jones and Watson (1990) and Smedley. Myers. and Harrell (1993)

indicated that these often include poor academic background, low self-concept, and

being a first-generation student in college.

Considering that the vast majority of community college students are White.

studies have found a disproportionate percentage of dropouts to be from minorities,

especially African Americans, Hispanics. and American Indians (Baker, 1986: Gold,








1981; Johnston, 1982). Mingle (1987) indicated that only I in 7 African Americans and

1 in 10 Hispanics who enroll in college after high school will achieve senior status in 4

years. The attrition rate for certain minority groups is higher than the national average

for all students.

Astin (1972) found that African American students had somewhat lower

persistence rates than non-African Americans but suggested that the relatively high

attrition rates of these students at 4-year colleges or universities were entirely

attributable to their relatively low high school grades and ability test scores. He added

that, in actuality, African American students were less likely to drop out than were

non-African American's when abilities and past achievements were comparable. In a

follow-up study, Astin (1973) held constant the academic factors in students'

backgrounds (e.g., high school rank and scholastic aptitude test scores) and found no

significant differences for students who were African American, Asian, or American

Indian.

Ramaker (1987) also found no significant difference in persistence for minority

students when observing student departure at the end of each academic term. If one

looks at withdrawal at different points in time over the length of the term, different

departure patterns appear. Ramaker discovered students leaving during the midpoint of

the term to be significantly more likely to be members of minority groups.

A survey of first time students entering Montgomery College, Maryland, in fall

1990 was conducted to collect data on student attitudes, enrollment behavior, and

educational goals. It was part of a study to identify factors related to student success








and nonsuccess, particularly among African American students. Previous studies at the

school have revealed that African American students enrolled part-time have the lowest

semester-to-semester retention rates (less than 50%), while full-time African American

students have a retention rate of more than 75%. In this study surveys were returned

by 1,261 first-time students for a 46% response rate. Findings included information

that while African American students more frequently intended to earn a degree as

compared to other students, they more often attended on a part-time basis (77%).

Also, African American students more frequently reported having concerns about

financing their education than other groups (Lanni, 1992).

A study by Walker (1988) surveyed strategies used by 88 community colleges

in Arizona, California, New Mexico, and Texas to meet educational needs of Hispanic

students and the relationship between these strategies and Hispanic student retention

rate. Questionnaires were sent to southwestern community colleges requesting

information on retention rates and strategies in effect. An analysis of retention rates

showed that retention was improved by financial aid, career counseling into selective

programs, bilingual education, ESL classes, and Hispanic studies classes (Walker.

1988).

A focus group study of influences of first-time Hispanic community college

students was conduced by Jalomo (1995). Despite the 90% growth of Hispanic

student enrollment between 1980 and 1991, colleges are not retaining these students.

Student-related factors influencing attrition include poverty, unemployment, social class

origins, inadequate academic preparation, weak study habits, self-doubt, low self-








esteem, and cultural separation. Jalomo's study indicated student perceptions about

learning ability are influenced by previous academic achievement and past interactions

with faculty and peers, both in and out of class.

Overall, at least 60% of White students who enter college obtain a degree, but

less than one-third of the American Indian college students graduate (Carnegie

Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, 1989). Guyette and Heth (1983)

estimated the dropout rate for' American Indians to be as high as 80%. Wells (1989)

indicated that nearly three out of four American Indian college students fail to earn

degrees because of poor academic preparation, inadequate financial aid, or personal

problems.

A factor contributing to the high attrition rate of students of color is their

expectations of higher education. Students of color are generally first-generation college

students and have not had the advantage of hearing their parents mention what college

was like for them (Quevedo-Varcia, 1987). Students of color enter their first year of

college with expectations that courses and examinations will resemble their experiences

from high school. Ross (1990) pointed out that many differences between high school

and college are not readily apparent to first-generation college students. Academic

familiarity, realistic self-appraisal, and positive self-concept have been related to

persistence for African American students (Tracey & Sedlacek, 1985).

Age. Age as a variable reflects conflicting reports in the literature. Astin's

(1975) work supports the noon that age is related to attrition and that older students

are less likely to persist. The rate of degree completion for adult students in








undergraduate degree programs is low when compared with traditional students (Bean &

Metzner, 1985). Notwithstanding, Naretto (1995) stated that the research on retention

of adult students in higher education has been scattered and is usually institution-

specific.

Studies by Windham (1994) and Price (1993) indicated persisters at the

community college to be younger students and nonpersisters to be older students.

Sydow and Sandel (1996) found students between the ages of 20 and 25 were 1.77

times more likely to withdraw than students 19 or younger. Mohammadi, (1994) in a

study of 3,019 students at Patrick Henry Community College in Virginia found attrition

rates after 1 year to be higher for those in the age ranges of 23-35 and 45-50.

Feldman (1993) studied pre-enrollment variables as predictors of 1-year

retention. When observing 1,140 first-time community college students, Feldman

found the risk of dropping out was associated with young students between 20-24

years old, lower high school grade point average, part-time attendance, and being a

member of an ethnic minority other than Asian.

Staman (1980), Malin, Bray, Dougherty, and Skinner (1980). and Haggerty

(1985) found external factors to be an important reason for adult nonpersistence and

encouraged consideration of such influences in future studies and models for adult

student retention. Swift (1987) reviewed a series of studies on the retention of adult

students and found that not all of the researchers supported the same findings. The

studies were primarily related to the characteristics of persisters and nonpersisters; he








did note, however, a tendency for adult persisters to be enrolled full time and for

external influences to be the usual cause for nonpersistence.

Bean and Metzner's (1985) theoretical model of adult student attrition

contended that external environmental variables exert more influence than academic

variables on degree completion. Yet, a study conducted by Metzner and Bean in 1987

did not support the hypothesis that external environmental variables exert more

influence than social integration on adult students' decision to persist, or not persist. to

degree completion.

In a study by Naretto (1995) of persistence of adult students at 4-year

institutions, the only significant difference in demographic data was GPA--3.39 for

completers and 3.14 for noncompleters. This supports the concept that adult students,

in general, are good students (Apps, 1991; Ross, 1989). In this study a greater number

of nonpersisters were part-time students. Also, nonpersisters were employed for

longer hours than persisters. It appears from this study that membership in a

supportive community is an important factor in explaining the persistence of adult

students to degree completion. The Bean/Metzner (1985) concept that because adult

students are usually commuters they are not subject to the socializing influences of the

college environment is not supported by this study. For persisters, negative

experiences and influences were balanced out by positive expressions of support and

encouragement. This study suggests that socialization, or connection with the campus

community, is very important to adult students.





25


Community College/4-Year Institution

Although the role and function of the community college at times may appear on

the surface as being similar to the first 2 years of the 4-year schools, the community

college possesses unique characteristics. Observing outcome measures from research

helps to establish a base upon which to understand fundamental differences.

When important student background differences (grade point average, entry

tests, socioeconomic status) are held constant, students who initially enroll in 2-year

colleges seeking a bachelor's degree are significantly less likely to complete their

bachelor's degree in the same period of time as their counterparts who initially enroll in

a 4-year college or university (Crook & Lavin, 1989; Dougherty, 1987. 1992: Hilton &

Schrader, 1986: Pascarella & Terenzini, 1991, Temple & Polk, 1986). In addition.

freshman-to-sophomore attrition at public 2-year colleges is appreciably higher than at

all other types of higher education institutions (American College Testing Program.

1993).

In one public educational system, first-year retention of first-time full-time

students by institution, race, and admission status indicated that system-wide 4-year

colleges had a 71.1% and 2-year colleges a 58.2% retention rate. Multiple-year

retention revealed a fall 1984 through fall 1993 retention rate of 56.4% for 4-year

institutions and 42% for 2-year institutions (University System of Georgia. 1994).

Gates and Creamer (1984) cited a 50% attrition rate for community colleges and

stated that some researchers "emphasize that two-year colleges attract students with

attributes associated with attrition or non-persistence" (p. 39). However, they stated








that the determinants of retention/attrition are not shaped by the type of students

enrolled in 2-year colleges but are influenced significantly by institutional conditions

such as programs, policies, organizational patterns, and interactive climate after student

matriculation. A study of the possible influence of a college's structure and organization

on students' effective development suggest that students' academic and social integration

tend to mediate the influences of structural characteristics (Pascarella, 1985a). Astin,

Korn, and Green (1987) cautioned that comparing rates from different types of

institutions can be very misleading.

Pascarella and associates (Pascarella et al., 1994b) described a study comparing

the relative benefits of initial attendance at a 2- or 4-year college, focusing specifically

on freshman-year changes in enjoyment of diversity and intellectual challenge, learning

for self-understanding, internal locus of attribution for academic success, and preference

for higher order cognitive activities. The study compared a population of community

college students to a population of commuter students at a large 4-year research

institution. There were no statistically significant differences found between 2- and 4-

year college students on any of four scales measuring end-of-freshman year orientation

toward learning. In addition, the institutional parity in first-year impacts appeared to

be general rather than conditional.

Looking at the long-term impact of initial attendance at either a community

college or a 4-year institution. Whitaker and Pascarella (1994) studied data from the

National Longitudinal Study of the High School Class of 1972. They observed 3,171

individuals 13-14 years after high school graduation and found that when educational





27


attainment is held constant, students initially enrolling in a 2-year vs. 4-year colleges are

not significantly disadvantaged in occupational and economic attainments (Whitaker &

Pascarella, 1994).

Although there are exceptions within the community college environment.

residential living typically is an experience of the 4-year or university campus. The

influences of residential versus the commuter students' experience parallels that of

attending a 4-year or 2-year institution. Thompson (1993) examined influence of on-

campus residence as compared with off-campus residence of first-year students.

Findings from 5,414 students revealed that progress and retention were significantly

higher for on-campus students regardless of race, gender, or admission type

(Thompson, 1993).

Pascarella (1 985b) proposed a causal model to examine the impact of resident

living on student development. He tested the model with 4,191 college students.

Results indicated that the influence of on-campus living on intellectual and social self-

concept is indirect and mediated through interactions with faculty and peers (Pascarella,

1985b).

Looking at issues regarding the commuter experience, Pascarella and associates

(Pascarella et al., 1993) tested the hypothesis that living on campus fostered cognitive

growth. They estimated relative first-year gains in reading comprehension.

mathematical reasoning and critical thinking of residents and commuter first-year college

students at a large urban university. Controlling for precollege cognitive level, academic

motivation, age, work responsibility, and extent of enrollment, resident students had








significantly larger first-year gains in critical thinking than did commuters. The

differences between resident and commuter on reading and mathematics gains were small

and nonsignificant. These findings suggest that the cognitive impact of residential living

is selective rather than global. The gains in critical thinking, rather than mathematics and

reading, indicate that residential living may be most influential in fostering cognitive

growth in areas that are not linked to specific course of curricular experiences. The

study suggested general cognitive growth during college is fostered not only by

coursework and academic involvement but also by social and intellectual interaction

with peers and faculty.

Studies Addressing Tinto's Variables of Attrition/Retention

Tinto (1993) theorized that a student enters higher education with varying

patterns of personal, familial, and academic characteristics. These personal dispositions

are represented by what Tinto refers to as a student's intention and commitment. A

student's intentions and commitments are shaped though individual experience within

the institution. How these interactions reflect the individual's experience will determine

if the student persists in college. Tinto identified four clusters of student experience

that will shape the outcome of college persistence: adjustment, difficulty. incongruence.

and isolation. Obligations and finances are forces outside the institution that affect the

student's decision to persist or drop out of the educational system.

Intention and Commitment

Tinto (1993) recognized that a student's willingness to work toward the

attainment of his or her goal is a significant part of the process of persistence in higher








education. Tinto views an individual's intentions regarding participation in higher

education as an important indicator of the probability of degree completion. A number

of studies have found that students who had definite or advanced degree aspirations

were more likely to persist than students who had lower or undetermined degree goals

(Astin, 1975, Lenning. Beal, & Sauer, 1980; MacMillian & Kester, 1973, Tinto. 1975).

The impact of intentions can be seen in a study conducted by Waggener and

Smith (1993) at Southeastern Louisiana University at Hammond with 2. 262 new and

transfer freshman applicants who attended orientation in 1989. A Supplementary

Enrollment Information instrument developed locally by the institution was used to

collect data. Family encouragement, the need for writing skills, belief in self, the goal to

obtain a degree, amount of commitment, and living arrangements were important

variables in deciding to enroll the following fall. The two factors that were important at

both benchmarks were the goal to obtain a degree and the firm or extra commitment to

that goal (Waggener & Smith, 1993).

Individual commitments take the forms of goal and institutional commitments.

Goal commitment addresses an individual's commitment to personal and occupational

goals. Academic boredom sets in for undecided students because "learning is not quite

as relevant to those who do not have a goal" (Noel, 1985, p. 11). Institutional

commitment describes an individual's commitment to the institution in which they

attend. Tinto (1993) stated that the greater the commitment, in either case, the greater

the opportunity of institutional persistence.








Students with identified career goals and a sense of purpose are more likely to

persist in college (Boe & Jolicoeur, 1989, Gordon, 1989; Kester 1980; Raimst, 1981).

Daniels (1990) analyzed the results of an Entering Student Survey administered to

3,590 new students at Brookdale Community College. The survey gathered information

from students on their goals and expectations and reached a 62% response rate.

Subsequent tracking of students revealed that retention was higher for students who

planned on graduation and students who planned on transferring than for students

without plans.

Lenning, Beal, and Sauer (1980) commented that a commitment to college, clear-

cut college and career goals, and certainty of goals were all important factors related to

persistence. In 2-year colleges, goal commitment seems to have a stronger effect on

retention than does institutional commitment (Chapman & Pascarella, 1983: Pascarella

& Chapman, 1983a).

Mohammadi (1994) found the most significant predictors of community college

student retention, in order of importance, were student goals, hours enrolled per

semester, number of credit hours completed, semester grade point average, and overall

GPA. Mohammadi also found that 40% of the fall 1988 cohort who left after 1 year

had no intention of completing a degree or certificate program.

There is some indication that the nature of commitment may vary based upon

gender. A study that assessed gender differences in student satisfaction with college

was conducted to understand further what contributes to student persistence and

student outcomes. Bean and Vesper (1994) gathered data from 494 first- and second-








year honors students at a large research university. Confidence in being a student and

having attractive courses were important for both female and male students, but only

men identified choice of major and occupational certainty as the most significant factors.

There is also evidence that possessing a goal may not be as critical a factor. A

study to determine success in retaining students through the successful completion of

their educational goals was conducted at Northwestern Michigan College. Retention

rates by student goals were 72% for students whose goal was to advance in a job.

81.8% for those seeking to get a new job, 84.2% for those seeking transfer, and 85.6%

for those reporting no goals (Shreve, 1995).

The nature of an institution's structure may influence a student's goal formation

process after they are admitted into the school. A study by McCormick (1990)

explored the effect of beginning postsecondary education in a 2-year college versus a 4-

year college, after controlling for background characteristics (gender. race/ethnicity.

socioeconomic status, and measured ability), initial education goal commitments, and

secondary and postsecondary program and performance. Data were drawn from the

senior cohort of the "High School and Beyond" database. The study involved a sample

of 2, 894 students. Results indicate that beginning postsecondary education in a 2-year

college increases the likelihood of a downward adjustment in expectations and that this

effect is most pronounced among those initially anticipating graduate study

(McCormick, 1990).

Rugg (1983) suggested that there is a second category of students called attainers

that needs to be distinguished from dropouts. Attainers are students who discontinue








their enrollment before graduation but after achieving their personal goals for college

study. Many students begin college with established goals which fall short of

completing a degree. From these students' point of view, the act of withdrawal does not

necessarily carry the label of personal failure that professionals in higher education

normally associate with it (Raimst, 1981). Tinto (1985) stated that the term dropout

should be applied only to those forms of departure involving students who did not

reasonably complete what they intended to achieve upon college entry.

Other studies indicate that students will meet their own established goals, while

being viewed by the institutions as a dropout. Moore's (1995) study at San Juan

College indicated that 54% of students who left after one semester reported they had

achieved their educational goals. In the spring of 1995 Westchester Community College

in New York surveyed all 1,208 students who attended for the first time in fall 1993 but

did not return the following spring semester. With a response rate of 20%, 14.1 %

indicated that they had not intended to return for spring semester when they enrolled--

that they had achieved their goals (Lee, 1996). Yet, Cohen and Brawer (1982) argued

that the study of student-stated goals is unreliable because students generally are not

able to express accurately their reasons for the choices they make.

With the exception of a few students who leave due to externally imposed

circumstances, student explanations for withdrawal are related to dissatisfaction with

the benefits of the academic or social life of the institution (Raimst. 1981).

Furthermore, there is evidence to indicate that institutional characteristics have as much

or more impact on college withdrawal than do student characteristics. Students are








more likely to leave because of dissatisfying experiences with the institution they are

attending (Noel, 1985). Tinto (1987) concluded that student retention is at least as

much a function of institutional behavior as it is of student behavior.

Adjustment. There are two distinct sources of difficulty in making the

transition to college. One may be the inability of individuals to separate themselves

from past forms of association. The other difficulty arises from an individual's need to

adjust to the new and often more challenging social and intellectual demands of higher

education (Tinto, 1993). A lack of understanding of the nature of the college experience

hinders persistence. Noel (1985) wrote that many first-generation college students do

not benefit from family members' past experiences. Therefore, when confronted with

the realities and demands of college living, they may feel the pressure to withdraw.

Working from a foundation built by Tinto (1975), Pascarella, Terenzini. and

Wolfe (1986) tested the principles of Tinto's model of the persistence/withdrawal

process using a precollege orientation program as the experimental intervention. They

found that the orientation experience had an impact on freshman persistence largely by

facilitating a student's initial ability to cope with a new set of social challenges in an

unfamiliar environment. In making their conclusion, Pascarella, Terenzini, and Wolfe

stated that developing initially successful integration into the social system of the

institution was the factor which most directly influenced commitment to the institution

and persistence.

Early research indicates that attrition is heaviest during and at the end of the

freshman year (Rootman, 1972). Research consistently indicates that the freshman year








is the stage when the greatest number of students are at risk of dropping out (Bean,

1980, Fetters, 1977; Dunphy, Miller, Woodruff, & Nelson, 1987). Porter (1990) found

that the greatest enrollment loss in independent colleges and universities occurred during

the first year and after the eighth semester. At least one-half of all students who drop

out of college will do so during their freshman year (Noel, 1985), and many of these

students will leave during the first 6 to 8 weeks of their initial semester (Blanc, Debuhr,

& Martin, 1983). Others have further narrowed the freshman's most critical transition

time, a period when the majority of students who drop out make the decision to do so,

to the first two to six weeks of school (Zarvell et al., 1991; Levitz & Noel, 1989

Gardner, 1986).

Another area in which researchers have shown interest is in the students' own

assessment of their experiences while enrolled in college, their reasons for leaving the

institution, and their plans for the future after leaving college. Nelson, Scott, and Bryan

(1984) found that by the eighth week of the term students were able to state plans

about their next term and "that students who will not persist can be identified by the

middle of their first semester" (p. 56).

Difficulty. Persistence in college requires more than adjustment. Minimum

standards of academic performance must be attained. However, prior performance and

measures of ability are not very highly correlated with departure (Tinto, 1993). Limited

intentions and/or weak commitments may be manifested in poor academic performance.

Astin (1972, 1985) found that persistence was positively correlated with

academic performance in high school and college admission test scores. While these








measures could not accurately predict whether a given student would drop out. Astin

noted that high school grades and ability test scores were by far the most important

available predictors of persistence for students at 4-year colleges and universities.

Pascarella (1980) found that a student's high school grade point average is the

pre-enrollment characteristic most highly correlated with college grade point average.

According to Astin (1993), the two most important predictors of students' grades in the

1985-1989 study were high school grade point average and SAT verbal scores.

Research findings comparing dropouts and persisters were in agreement

regarding academic ability as a key variable (Bell, 1984; Gorter, 1978: Reinertson. 1986:

Webb, 1989). Dropouts scored lower on standardized test designed to measure ability.

such as ACT, than did persisters (Cohen & Brawer, 1982; DiCarlo, 1980). Moline

(1987) found admission test scores and high school grades to be two strong predictors

of retention during the 1970s and 1980s. Nelson, Scott, and Breyan (1984) and Zarvel

and others (1991) also found precollege academic achievement and aptitude variables as

useful predictors of persistence.

Studies by Astin. Korn. and Green (1987) showed that students with the

highest test scores are six times more likely to earn a bachelors degree in 4 years than

those with the lowest scores. Students with the highest scores and grade point averages

are 15 times more likely to earn a bachelor's degree in 4 years than those with the

lowest scores.

Wall (1996) conducted a four-semester study at Atlantic Community College to

determine which were the factors that affected retention. Academic success, measured








by previous semester grade point average, was found to be a strong determinant of

retention for all semesters and for long-term attendance and graduation. Students who

tested into developmental courses on the basic skills test and who completed a required

developmental course during their first semester persisted at the same or a higher rate as

students who tested at college level, while developmental students who did not

complete a developmental course in their first semester had significantly lower retention

rates (Wall, 1996).

Matonak's (1987) study of student retention on an academically disadvantaged

community college student population is supportive of the constructs in Tinto's theory.

The positive effects of academic integration on retention was consistent with the model,

and with results of previous studies on commuter students (Fox, 1986; Nora, 1987).

The negative influence of social integration on retention was inconsistent with the

hypothesized model, yet it was consistent with previous research on similar

populations (Fox, 1986). Although initial commitments accounted for a significant

portion of the variance in academic integration and social integration, the results did not

substantiate the hypothesized positive relationship between initial commitments and

retention.

Incongruence and isolation. Tinto (1993) described incongruence as a lack of

institutional fit. It refers to the condition where the student perceives him/herself as

being at odds with the institution. The mismatch may be between the abilities, skills,

and interests of the students and the demands placed upon the individual by the

academic system. Typically, incongruence is manifested in the student's judgment that








the school's intellectual or social climate is unsuited or irrelevant, or even contrary, to

his or her own preferences (Tinto. 1993). Incongruence may be the result of poor

decision making in college choice. Cope and Hannah (1975) indicated that poor college

choice is the cause of at least 20% of college transfers.

In exploring the relationship between student incongruence and satisfaction.

Lenning, Beal, and Saur (1980) reported that persistence may be related more to

willingness and ability to endure dissatisfaction than to the dissatisfaction itself. Citing

dissonance theory, they speculated that "students with strong perceptions of personal

needs that are not being met will be more likely to try to remedy the discrepancy (i.e..

by dropping out) than those who consider their unmet needs to be less serious" (p. 51).

Tinto (1993) stated that individual isolation, the absence of sufficient contact

between the student and other members of the social and academic communities, leads

to departure from the institution. Tinto (1982) noted that the more time faculty gave to

their students, and students to each other, the more likely were students to complete

their education. He pointed out that such contacts appeared to be essential components

in the process of social and intellectual development and concluded that institutions

should encourage those contacts whenever and wherever possible. Astin (1977)

supported the premise that student and faculty interaction have a stronger relationship

to student satisfaction with the college experience than any other involvement, variable,

or ,indeed, any other student or institutional characteristic. Pascarella and Chapman

(1 983b), using a large multi-institutional sample of 2,326 college students. observed that

social and academic integration, while not directly influencing persistence, had








significant indirect effects on persistence. This influence on persistence operated

through institutional commitment and goal commitment.

Tinto (1975) stressed that interaction with faculty not only increased social

integration and institutional commitment but also increased the individual's academic

integration. Pascarella and Terenzini (1978) found that only two of the six types of

interactions studied were significantly related to academic achievement: discussion of

intellectual matters and discussion of career concerns with faculty. Astin and Panos

(1969) found that after controlling for pre-enrollment characteristics, students'

familiarity with their instructors was related to significant increases in academic

achievement. Furthermore, a study by Beal and Noel (1980) established that a caring

attitude of faculty and staff is the most potent retention force on campus.

The impact of interaction can vary with different populations. Bean and Vesper

(1994) found that faculty contact was not significant to female or male honor students

when surveyed regarding student satisfaction with college. Furthermore, results

indicated that contact with advisors, having friends, and living on campus were

significantly related to satisfaction for females but not for male honors students at a

large research university (Bean & Vesper, 1994).

Although Tinto's model of student retention postulates an approximate parity

between social and academic integration, Munro (1981) found the effect size for the

influence of academic integration on persistence to be moderately strong. Munro

studied 6,018 first-time, full-time, 4-year college entrants. She observed significant

direct and indirect effects for academic integration, goal commitment, and high school








average on persistence in college. Social integration, however, had no significant direct

or indirect effect on persistence.

For commuter colleges, the findings for academic integration and social

integration have been mixed. In a study of commuter students attending an urban

university, direct and indirect effects of academic integration on persistence were

observed by Pascarella, Duby, and Iverson (1983). Contradicting Tinto's formulation.

social integration was found to have a negative impact on persistence. An increase in

social integration represented an increased risk for withdrawal. In other studies by

Pascarella and Chapman (1983a), Pascarella and Wolf (1985), and Tinto (1987, 1993).

academic integration appears to have greater effects on attrition than does social

integration, especially in commuter institutions. Academic integration was found to

influence significantly social integration and not to influence persistence among

academically disadvantaged students at a 2-year commuter institution (Fox. 1986)

When looking specifically at community colleges, results from Napoli's (1996)

meta-analysis of community college literature indicated that both academic integration

and social integration play important roles in the decision to persist in college.

Pascarella, Smart, and Etherington (1986) found both social and academic integration to

have direct and indirect effects on long-term (9-year) persistence and graduation among

2-year community college students. A study by Bers and Smith (1991) found both

integration measures significantly related to persistence in 2-year community college

students. Their study underscored social integration making a larger contribution in

discriminating persisters from nonpersisters. than does academic integration, at the








community college. Work by Napoli (1996) further showed that the impact of social

integration is greatest for term-to-term persistence and diminishes over time.

The findings regarding social integration are not consistent. Work by Mulligan

and Hennessy (1990) showed that direct and indirect effects have been observed for

academic integration, but not for social integration, among students attending a 2-year

community college. A study by Halpin (1990) failed to detect any effect for social

integration among 2-year community college students.

Two interventions designed to address academic and social isolation in the

classroom are Learning Communities and Freshman Interest Groups (FIGs). A

qualitative case study of FIGs was conducted by Tinto and Goodsell (1993) at a large

public, research university. In this study, freshmen enrolled in specific thematically

linked courses during their first semester. Results showed that FIGs allowed students

to interact repeatedly with a consistent set of peers across their classes. This, in turn,

enabled students to form a social network in which other academic support mechanisms

could begin to operate. Tinto and Goodsell indicated that FIGs are a potentially

powerful way of affecting students' first year college experiences.

Similar to FIGs, learning communities at a community college consist of groups

of students taking two or more classes together. Learning communities create the

opportunity for students to provide each other with social and academic support while

professors integrate class content. Tinto and Love (1995) found that when compared to

traditional students, learning community students' perception of classes, other students,

faculty, counselors, campus climate, and their own involvement were generally more








positive. Learning community students earned more credits and had higher grade point

averages than traditional students, yet learning community students had only a slightly

higher persistence rate than the comparison students (77.7% versus 75.9%). In general.

learning community students indicated that group work and peer collaboration was

easier and more fun than traditional methods.

External Obligations/Family and Financial

Tinto (1993) stated that every student is subject to the effects of external forces

upon his or her participation in college. The two external forces that stand out in

shaping persistence are obligations and finances. The first refers to the responsibilities

individuals have in regard to their associations with groups of communities external to

school. The latter refers to one's ability to fund his or her college attendance. External

factors have been found to have a greater influence on the dropout decision for students

at commuter institutions than social integration (Bean & Metzner, 1985; Tinto. 1987,

1993).

Allen's (1994) study of student withdrawal behavior at Angelo State University

in Texas highlighted the role of family. The study focused upon 343 respondents of

823 first-time freshmen. Results found three characteristics distinguished persisters

from dropouts and from transfer students: (a) greater encouragement from family, (b)

better academic performance, and (c) greater commitment to the institution.

Encouragement from family was the most significant of these factors (Allen, 1994).

When turning to educational funding issues, early studies of the importance of

financial factors show a potential relationship to persistence. Summerskill's (1962)








review of the literature found that in 16 out of 21 studies financial reasons were ranked

among the top three most important factors in attrition.

Tinto (1982) found that much of the impact of finances on a student's academic

decisions occurred at the point of entry into higher education. Financial issues

influenced decisions of whether or not to attend college. Thereafter, financial impact

helped to mold choice about specific institutions of initial entry. Cope and Hannah

(1975) found similar results and reported that the lack of finances was more of a barrier

to starting college than it was to finishing college. Tinto (1993) also observed that when

students' experiences were positive, they were more likely to accept greater financial

burdens in order to continue attendance than when experiences were unsatisfactory.

Earl (1989) analyzed student financial aid in terms of its effects on admissions

policies, attrition and retention rates, stop-out rates, transfer rates, and graduation rates.

His source was literature related to student financial aid and published between 1970

and 1981. He discovered that most studies using a national or statewide base find that

financial aid significantly affects enrollment in American colleges and universities.

Financial aid has been found to be a significant factor in the recruitment and retention

process, and it also helps students decide whether to attend a public or private

institution (Earl, 1989).

Stampen and Cabrera (1988) investigated three basic student financial aid issues

in 4-year colleges: the targeting of overall aid, aid packaging for different recipient

groups, and financial aid's role in motivating persistence. Their findings show that aid is

distributed mainly to low income students, compensates for low-income disadvantages.








and encourages students' persistence. From Porter's (1990) review of data from private

4-year institutions taken from the "High School and Beyond" study, he determined that

students who received grants in their first year of study were more likely to remain

enrolled than students without grants.

Cabrera (1990) conducted a study using a national sample of 1.375 college

students attending public 4-year institutions. They tested a hypothesis concerning

economic and noneconomic variables on college persistence. Findings indicated financial

variables moderate the effect of goal commitment on persistence. In another study also

by Cabrera (1992), funding at commuter colleges was studied. A survey of 466

students in a large, urban commuter college investigated the relationship of student

finances to academic persistence. Results suggested that financial aid (a) equalizes

opportunities for students, thus decreasing attractiveness of alternatives, (b) facilitates

academic and social integration, and (c) increases student commitment to the institution.

Work

Working while attending school is inevitable for many students in America's

higher education system. Dey, Astin, and Korn, (1991) reported that over 20% of all

entering first-year students indicated that the probability was very good that they

would have to find employment outside their school. National data from the

Cooperative Institutional Research Program (Astin, 1993) showed that 36% of all first-

year students entering American colleges and universities in 1990 reported that they

would have to find employment to assist in paying for their college expenses.








Being employed during the school year generates risks. Astin (1972) found that

students had less of a chance of staying in college if they were employed during the

school year. This variable was the fourth most important predictor of attrition among

students at 4-year colleges and universities. Research is reasonably consistent that

employment off campus (typically measured in number of hours employed per week)

has a negative influence on both year-to-year persistence in college and completion of a

bachelor's degree (Anderson 1981; Astin, 1982; Ehrenberg & Sherman, 1987; Staman,

1980).

The impact on retention and educational attainment of working on campus

appears to be just the opposite of off-campus employment. Research by Pascarella and

Terenzini (1991), Anderson (1981), Astin (1982), and Velez (1985) indicated that part-

time employment on campus positively influences both persistence and degree

completion, even after controls are made for such factors as academic aptitude.

educational aspirations, high school achievement, and family socioeconomic origins.

Furthermore, other researcher have found that it is the amount of time per week

spent working that is significantly related to attrition. Lenning. Beal. and Sauer (1980)

found that part-time employment was positively correlated with persistence, especially

when the job was under 25 hours per week, was on campus, the student started

working as a freshman, and the student received little or no support through grants or

loans. When the job exceeded 25 hours per week, it negatively impacted persistence. It

has been speculated by Lenning, Beal, and Sauer that part-time on-campus jobs

promoted retention by providing additional involvement in campus life.








Pascarella et al. (1994a) studied the impact of on-campus and off-campus work

on first-year student cognitive outcomes. With controls made for precollege cognitive

level and other relevant influences, amount of on- and off-campus work had little

negative impact on first-year students' reading comprehension. mathematics

achievement, or critical thinking. In fact, there was no significant difference on any of

the three cognitive outcomes among students who worked on campus, students who

worked off campus, and students who did not work during the first year.

Work and/or family obligations typically limit a student's academic load to part-

time or less. When observed by itself, a student's full-time/part-time status becomes a

significant attrition variable. Moore (1995) and Windham (1994) found that full-time

attendance at the community college is the most prevalent characteristic of persisters.

The most salient characteristic among studies of nonpersisters is part-time attendance

(Feldman, 1993; Price, 1993).

In a study by Breindel (1997), the number of units carried, as opposed to

gender, age or ethnicity, was the principal predictor of credit student persistence. For

new credit students who enrolled in 12 units or more, 67% persisted to the subsequent

fall semester. This compares to 46% of those carrying 6 to 11.9 units and 27% of those

carrying 5.9 or fewer units (Breindel, 1997).

Moore (1995) conducted a study at San Juan College that took into account

several definitions of persistence, including re-enrollment in the subsequent term. re-

enrollment the following fall semester, and persistence in relation to indicators of

student educational goals such as full-time or degree-seeking status. In 1991 and 1992.








fall to fall persistence rates for part-time, degree-seeking students were 42% and 35%,

respectively, and 59% and 46% for full-time, degree-seeking students. Semester to

semester persistence rates for fall 1993 were 79% for full-time students and 45% for

part-time students, with higher fall to spring persistence rates than spring to fall rates.

In general, all full-time students persisted at a higher rate than part-time students

(Moore, 1995).

In the spring of 1995 Westchester Community College in New York surveyed

all students who attended for the first time in fall 1993 but did not return the following

spring semester. While only 56.2% of the first-time students in 1993 attended part-

time, 75% of the 1,208 students who did not return had attended part-time (Lee. 1996).

College Orientation Course Studies

Tinto (1982) stressed an emphasis for programs designed to promote student-

faculty interaction. Concluding his remarks on general retention strategies, Tinto noted

that successful retention programs were most frequently longitudinal in character, were

also always integrally tied to the admissions process. and their implementation

generally involved a wide range of institutional characters. College orientation courses,

taken the first term of entry, fit Tinto's criteria for successful retention programming.

Approximately two-thirds of all 2-year and 4-year colleges and universities offer

some type of new student seminar. The primary goal of almost 70% of these courses is

providing students with an extended orientation to the institution, to themselves as

learners, to essential academic skills, and to the purpose of higher education (Barefoot &

Fidler, 1996). Gordon (1989) stated that 40% of the institutions that responded to a








survey from the National Orientation Directors Association utilized a freshman course

or seminar to assist student adjustment to college and to enhance student persistence.

Of the 1,0 10 survey responses to the 1994 National Survey of Freshman Seminar

Programs by Barefoot and Fidler (1996), 350 responses were from community colleges.

Two hundred-twenty (60%) of the responding community colleges indicated that they

offered a "first-year" or "new student" course.

Rice and Devore (1992) found extended orientation courses equally common at

2- and 4-year colleges but different in administrative structures and content emphases.

From a national study, 2-year college courses were found to have larger class sizes.

shorter duration, and less varied content and were less likely to be required or to

introduce an academic discipline.

In a study by Fidler (1991), data were collected and analyzed indicating that

students who participated in the freshman seminar course exhibited higher sophomore

retention rates than nonparticipants for 14 consecutive years. Furthermore, seminar

participants were also more likely to persist to graduation (Shanley & Witten. 1990).

Similar retention-enhancing effects of the freshman seminar have been found for "high-

risk" students who did not meet regular admission requirements (Fidler & Hunter,

1989). Fidler (1985) reported freshman-to-sophomore retention rates averaged 81% for

University 101 participants in contrast to 75.8% for nonparticipants.

Keenan and Gabovitch (1995) conducted a longitudinal study to assess the

effect of a 1-credit, 8-week freshman seminar on student development and retention.

Outcomes measured were knowledge of college resources and services, utilization of








academic support services, increases in self-assessed learning skills, increases in

students' career maturity, and retention of students from the first to second semester of

their freshman year. For 4 years beginning in spring 1992, students in the course and in

a control group completed a questionnaire during the first and last weeks of the

semester. Results suggested positive effects of seminar participation on all of the

measures. Students in the seminar scored consistently higher than students in the

control group regarding student development and integration into the campus culture.

Students in the seminar were also far more likely to use tutoring and other academic

support services than control students (Keenan & Gabovitch, 1995).

Hoff (1994) led a research group in a study that examined the effects of a Dalton

Junior College student success course. All students were in college for the first time.

The sample included 405 class participants and 500 control participants. Among the

findings were that at the end of their first year, class students were progressing more

quickly through their program and that class students returned at significantly higher

rates both after the first quarter and after the first year.

A study was conducted at Sacramento City College to determine the effects of

enrolling in a first-semester student success course on academic performance and

persistence. Matched pairs of students, one who took the semester-long course and one

who did not, were compared in terms of number of college credit hours completed. grade

point average, and dropout rate. From two equal-sized pools totaling over 250

students, 40 pairs of students were randomly matched on reading levels, writing levels.

and number of hours employed. Over the seven semesters of the study, the dropout








rate of the treatment group was half that of the control group. Students in the treatment

group earned a grade of C or better in four times as many math courses. When the total

number of college credits earned was examined, the treatment group completed 326%

more units than the control group. After seven semesters, the GPAs of the two groups

were almost identical (Stupka, 1993).

A study of the Harrisburg Area Community College Master Student course was

conducted to track academic achievement, including number of semesters enrolled and

total credits carried and earned for 115 students that took the course in 1992. The

results indicated that the group had a mean cumulative grade point average of 2.21 at the

end of summer 1993, compared to a college-wide GPA of 2.64. The sample was not

representative of the general student population, but researchers indicated that the

course did help student performance, at least on a short-term basis (Lum & Signor,

1994).

A study at DeKalb College in Clarkston, Georgia, was conducted to determine

whether the needs of students were satisfied by the orientation classes and if there were

differences between the evaluation of freshmen in the 5-week classes as compared to

those in the 10-week classes. Approximately 1,300 freshmen evaluated the classes at

the final class session. In general, student evaluations of the 5-week sections were more

positive tan evaluations of the 10-week sections. In the 5-week course 91.5% of the

freshmen felt that the program planning session was essential or very important for the

beginning freshmen, while 71.5% of the freshmen in the 1 O-week classes felt the same.

Vocational/career planning were considered essential or very important by 70.8% of the








5-week sample and 56.4% of the 10-week sample. Study skills sessions appeared least

effective (Ozaki, 1994).

A study by Sloan (1991) intended to analyze whether a college orientation

course at Broward Community College was effective in building institutional

commitment, defined as re-enrollment after 1 year. Using regression analysis. the

orientation course was significant as the second best predictor of first-term grade point

averages, while total credit hours paid for the first semester were the best predictors.

The overall findings indicated that the combination of factors (gender, race/ethnic group,

degree program, total credits paid for, college preparatory/college level status, and

enrollment in the orientation course) is more significant in explaining mean differences in

first-term grade point average than in explaining significant difference in re-enrollment or

graduation rates. Findings indicated a strong relationship between enrollment in the

orientation course and 1-year re-enrollment in the college for part-time A.A. degree-

seeking students (Sloan, 1991)

Results of a study by McIntyre (1993) did not support the hypothesis that the

college orientation course has a significant effect on persistence or success as defined as

higher GPA or enrollment status. In his study, students who had not declared a major

were required to enroll and participate in the course.

After reviewing the research on the freshman orientation class in their synthesis

of more than 2,500 studies on how college programs and experiences affect student

development, Pascarella and Terenzini (1991) concluded, "The weight of the evidence

suggests that a first-semester freshman seminar ... is positively linked with both








freshman-year persistence and degree completion. The positive link persists even when

academic aptitude and secondary school achievement are taken into account" (pp. 419-

420).

Adjustment and Difficulty

College orientation classes in the community college have been found to supply

students with information essential to their academic socialization and adjustment to

college. Coll and VonSeggern (1991) wrote that college orientation classes facilitate

adjustment to college by providing (a) descriptions of college program offerings, (b) the

college's expectations for students, (c) information about assistance and services for

examining interests, values, and abilities, (d) encouragement to establish working

relationships with faculty, (e) information about services that help with adjustment to

college, and (f) financial aid information.

Students entering college may lack confidence in their ability to be successful

students. Self-appraisal can be a critical factor in student adjustment. Taylor (1988)

evaluated the effect of an extended orientation course on community college students'

self-appraisal of problem-solving behaviors. It was hypothesized that students who

completed the class would see themselves as more effective problem solvers, assess

their academic skills at a higher level, be more familiar with and use campus resources at

a higher rate, and perform better academically than would control subjects. All subjects

completed the Problem-Solving Inventory, an Academic Skills Evaluation, and the

Campus Resource Utilization Checklist in a pre-/posttest quasi-experimental design.

Differences in academic performance were assessed by comparing GPA and persistence








rates for two quarters. Analysis indicated that subjects reported a significant increase in

academic self-confidence but not problem-solving appraisal. Treatment groups were

more familiar with 82% of the campus resources than were control but did not use

services at a higher rate. When educational background was covaried. treatment subjects

achieved significantly higher GPAs for the first quarter; and there were no significant

differences in second quarter GPA or retention rates (Taylor, 1988).

In a study by Davis-Underwood and Lee (1994), the results of the analysis of

variance indicated that students who participated in the freshman orientation course had

a significantly higher mean freshman year GPA than nonparticipants. Seminar

participants earned an average GPA of 2.63, while nonparticipants earned an average

GPA of 2.35. Fidler and Hunter (1989), Stupka (1986). and Wilkie and Kuckuck

(1989) found GPAs of course participants to be significantly higher than those

achieved by matched control groups of nonparticipants.

Fidler (1985) found that freshmen who participated in University 101 had a

higher probability of returning for the sophomore year. in spite of a greater percentage

of higher risk students than nonparticipants. Research indicates that participation in

college orientation classes raises the academic performance of low-achieving students (as

identified by below-average entrance test scores and high school rank) relative to that of

students with more qualified admission characteristics (Fidler, 1991 ). Research further

suggests that participation in a first-year extended orientation class has particularly

dramatic effects on academically at-risk students who are disproportionately

represented in community colleges (Roueche & Roueche, 1993).








The results of the study by Blackhust (1994) are consistent with research

regarding academic achievement and freshman orientation courses. Such research

suggests that freshman orientation courses increase the academic performance of low-

achieving students relative to other students. While not tested directly by this study.

this hypothesis is supported by the finding that students with relatively low grade

point averages found the freshman orientation course the most useful in helping them

succeed academically. Analysis of data by Craig (1994) indicated a significant

relationship between participation in the course and retention and academic

performance for all freshmen, whether they were considered to be at risk or not. Of the

at-risk students, nearly four out of five who participated in the course were still

enrolled in college 1 year after their initial freshman semester.

A study examined the impact of a 1-credit study skills course on the academic

achievement and retention of second-semester freshman probationary students at a

state-supported university with a student population of over 13,000 in western

Pennsylvania. The study compared academic performance of the treatment and

nontreatment groups as measured by grade point averages, academic hours attempted.

and academic hours earned during the semester the treatment occurred as well as

subsequent semesters of study. The population had a grade point average below 1.5 on

a 4.0 scale at the end of their first semester at the university. Forty-one students in

1985 and 54 in 1986 of the invited students participated in the class. The control group

was identified as those probationary students not choosing to participate in the study.

At the conclusion of the spring semester the experimental group in each year of the








study earned a significantly higher grade point average than did the control group.

However these GPAs for all groups were still lower than a C average. Both

experimental groups earned significantly more academic hours during the spring

semester than did the comparison control group. The experimental group had

significantly higher grade point averages than did students in the control group 2 years

following the 1985 intervention. There were no statistically significant differences

between the two groups in regard to hours attempted and hours earned. One year

following the intervention, 14% more of the students in the treatment group than in the

nontreatment group were still enrolled at the university. This difference also was

evident 2 years following intervention, when 9% more of the students in the treatment

group were still enrolled at the university than were nontreatment (Lipsky & Ender.

1990). However, an initial study of the freshmen seminar at the University of North

Carolina (Maisto, Davis, Keyes, & Tammi, 1987) found no significant differences

between seminar participants and nonparticipants on measures of academic success and

retention.

Addressing special populations, a study examined the effectiveness of a freshman

orientation course for leaming-disabled (LD) and nonlearning-disabled (NLD) students.

In a longitudinal records review study, the retention or graduation rates and grade point

averages of 680 LD and NLD students who did and did not complete a freshman

seminar were analyzed. Results suggested that students who completed the seminar

graduated at a higher rate than control students and that LD students graduated at a

higher rate than NLD students. Learning-disabled students who completed the








freshman seminar experienced the highest graduation rate, followed by NLD students

who participated in the seminar, and then students who did not take the seminar and

were NLD. The lowest graduation rate was for LD students who did not take the

seminar. Grade point averages were generally not significantly different between the

LD and NLD groups in relation to participation in the freshman orientation course

(Green, 1995).

Incongruence and Isolation

During 1987-1988, Manor Junior College developed a semester-long freshman

orientation course designed to help students understand the college system. to

strengthen students' identification with their vocational program and career choice, and

to improve students' academic competencies and confidence in their ability to achieve

academic success. Students met in groups for 2 hours per week to discuss a variety of

topics. Students were also given weekly writing assignments related to their vocational

programs and career goals. Student participants reported having difficulty maintaining

close ties with the freshman orientation course instructor the semester following the

course. They also expressed dissatisfaction with the amount of work required by the

noncredit seminar (Suffet, 1988).

Another study was designed to gather information about students' informal

faculty contacts and their participation in extracurricular activities. The results of the

nine-item paper-and-pencil questionnaire showed that seminar participants engaged in

significantly more informal faculty contacts than nonparticipants. Seminar participants

also reported being engaged in significantly more extracurricular activities than








nonparticipants. No significant gender effects were found (Davis-Underwood & Lee.

1994).

Summry

In summary, when looking at the variables most often associated with

retention--gender, age, and race--it appears there is inconclusive evidence to determine if

men and women differ in persistence patterns. Furthermore, attrition in nontraditional-

age students is impacted more significantly by factors external to education, and

characteristics of student background and academic ability are greater predictors of

persistence than race. In addition, students attending 2-year institutions are more likely

to drop out of school than those attending 4-year institutions. The difference in

dropout rates among these students more typically arises from institutional conditions

than from the academic ability of the students attracted to either type of institution.

The high rate of dropping out at the early stages of college entry points to the role of

college adjustment and goal commitment. First-year college orientation classes are

related to freshman year persistence and to degree completion.














CHAPTER 3
METHODOLOGY

Chapter Organization

In this chapter the study's design, research questions, participants, research and

data collection procedures, and analysis are described. The purpose of this study was to

explore whether there is a significant relationship between taking a community college

orientation course during the first term and the retention, persistence, and time to degree

completion of academically prepared students.

Research Design

Inferential statistics were used to describe the effect of an orientation class taken

during the first term in college on retention, course withdrawals, grade point average,

course repetitions, and number of credit hours accumulated before graduation. The study

retrospectively covers a 4-year period. Because random assignment of students to a

treatment and nontreatment group was not possible, an ex post facto design was used.

The ex post facto model is effective in evaluating the effects of a treatment not originally

designed for research purposes (Huck, Cormier, & Bounds, 1974) and to study possible

causes after they may have exerted their effect upon other variables (Borg & Gall, 1989).

The study was longitudinal in structure, assessing historical data after the first

semester, and at the end of the first, second, third, and fourth year of the initial treatment.

Legislative action taken in the fall of 1995 brought changes to curriculum and withdrawal








policy in the state of Florida. To remove the influence of these changes upon the study,

the period being observed is 1991-1995.

Research Questions

This study examined the following research questions:

1. Is there a difference between students who have taken a college orientation class

and those who have not taken a college orientation class (in their first term ) in retention

after 1 year, 2 years, 3 years, and 4 years?

2. Is there a difference between students who have taken a college orientation class

and those who have not taken a college orientation class (in their first term ) in number of

course withdrawals after 1 year, 2 years, 3 years, and 4 years?

3. Is there a difference between students who have taken a college orientation class

and those who have not taken a college orientation class (in their first term ) in GPA after

1 year, 2 years, 3 years, and 4 years?

4. Is there a difference between students who have taken a college orientation class

and those who have not taken a college orientation class (in their first term ) in total

number of courses repeated after 1 year, 2 years, 3 years, and 4 years?

5. Is there a difference between students who have taken a college orientation class

and those who have not taken a college orientation class (in their first term) in total number

of credit hours at time of graduation?

6. Do age, gender, and race interact with taking a college orientation course (in their

first term) to affect retention, course withdrawal, GPA, courses repeated, and number of

credit hours taken at time of graduation?








Participants

The participants in this investigation consisted of male and female students from

Miami-Dade Community College, Okaloosa-Walton Community College, Santa Fe

Community College, and Tallahassee Community College. Miami-Dade Community

College, located in a large urban community in the southern part of the state, has an

unduplicated Associate in Arts Degree Program headcount of 25,693 students

(Department of Education. Division of Community Colleges. 1997). Okaloosa-Walton

Community College, located in a small coastal community in the northwestern part of the

state, has an unduplicated Associate in Arts Degree Program headcount of 4. 023 students

(Department of Education, Division of Community Colleges, 1997). Santa Fe Community

College, located in a medium-sized urban community in the north-central part of the state,

has an unduplicated Associate in Arts Degree Program headcount of 11.526 students

(Department of Education, Division of Community Colleges, 1997). Tallahassee

Community College, located at the state capitol in the north-central part of the state, has

an unduplicated Associate in Arts Degree Program headcount of 7.656 students

(Department of Education, Division of Community Colleges, 1997). These four Florida

institutions were chosen because they have similar general academic graduation

requirements, offer similar college orientation classes, and vary in institutional size and

location.

In order to be selected into the study, participants had to be first time in college for

the academic term starting fall of 1991, had completed at least the first term they were

enrolled, were Associate of Arts degree seeking, maintained full time status during the first

term, and did not test into college preparatory classes according to state standards in effect








during the 1991 fall term. All students meeting these criteria were included in the study.

The study tracked the same cohort of students until they graduated. stopped attending

college, or at the end of 4 years. The academic performance and persistence of students

who had completed a college orientation class during their first term was compared to

students who did not take a college orientation class during their first term in college.

Research Procedure

Data for this study were gathered by a computer search of the historical database

files from each of the four participating institutions. Data collection was coordinated by

the researcher with the assistance of the Office of Institutional Research at Santa Fe

Community College, using data reported by the Florida Division of Community Colleges.

Data Collection and Analysis

Measurements were taken at the end of the first term and at the end of first,

second, third, and fourth years. The dependent variables were date of degree completion

or end of continuous enrollment, cumulative grade point average at the end of each

measurement period, total number of course withdrawals at the end of each measurement

period, total number of course repetitions at the end of each measurement period, and total

number of credit hours attained at the end of each measurement period. The independent

variables were participation/nonparticipation in a college orientation class, sex, race, age,

and institution of attendance. Four institutions of varying size and geographic locations

have been chosen to observe if these variables influence persistence.

Quantitative data analysis was used to evaluate the five research questions

outlined. To assess population demographics, descriptive statistics of central tendency








and dispersion were used. An analysis of variance model was applied to address questions

I through 6.

Summary_

The purpose of this study was to ascertain through the use of historical academic

records if there is a significant relationship between taking a community college orientation

course during the first term and the retention, persistence, and time to degree completion

of students. Student data encompassing a 4-year time period were collected from four

community colleges that varied in institutional size and location. Data analysis for this

study applied descriptive statistics of central tendency and dispersion. and analysis of

variance models.














CHAPTER 4
RESULTS

The purpose of this study was to explore whether there is a significant

relationship between taking a community college orientation course during the first term

in college and the retention, persistence, and time to degree completion of students. An

examination was made to see whether an orientation class impacts retention, number of

course withdrawals, students' grade point average over the long term, number of courses

repeated, and the total number of credit hours required to complete the degree.

Data were collected from Miami-Dade Community College, Okaloosa-Walton

Community College, Santa Fe Community College, and Tallahassee Community College.

The resulting sample totaled 1,400 participants. of which 31.57% (N=442) had taken a

college orientation class their first term and 68.43% (N=958) that had never taken a

college orientation class. When the sample is viewed by individual institutions, there

were 21.33% (N= 167) of the participants that had taken a college orientation class their

first term and 78.67% (N=616) that had never taken a college orientation class at Miami-

Dade Community College; 91.54% (N=1 19) of the participants that had taken a college

orientation class their first term and 8.46% (N=1 1) that had never taken a college

orientation class at Okaloosa Walton Community College; 48.70% (N= 31) of the

participants that had taken a college orientation class their first term and 51.30% (N= 138)

that had never taken a college orientation class at Santa Fe Community College; and

11.47% (N=25) of the participants that had taken a college orientation class their first








term, and 88.53% (N= 193) that had never taken a college orientation class at Tallahassee

Community College.

The gender division of the sample was 50.2 1% female (N=703) and 49.79% male

(N=697). Of the female participants, 33% (N=471) had taken a college orientation class

their first term, and 67% (N=232) had never taken a college orientation class. Of the male

participants, 30.13% (N=210) had taken a college orientation class their first term, and

69.87% (N=487) had never taken a college orientation class.

The racial/ethnic divisions of the sample were 51.4% white (N=720), 36.8%

Hispanic (N=515). 8.9% African American (N=125), 2.4% Asian (33). and 0.5% other

minority (N=7). Of the white participants, 38.33% (N=276) had taken a college

orientation class their first term. and 61.67% (N=444) had never taken a college

orientation class. Of the Hispanic participants, 19.42% (N=100) had taken a college

orientation class their first term, and 80.58% (N=415) had never taken a college

orientation class. Of the African American participants, 48% (N=60) had taken a college

orientation class their first term, and 52% (N=65) had never taken a college orientation

class. Of the Asian participants. 18.18% (N=6) had taken a college orientation class their

first term, and 81.82% (N=27) had never taken a college orientation class. None of the

other minority participants had taken a college orientation class their first term.

The age of the sample ranged from 15 to 44 years of age. with a mean age of 19.68

years of age. The standard deviation was 2.10.

The Statistical Analysis System (SAS) was used to compute analysis of variance

(ANOVA) for the dependent and independent variables. The level of significance for all

analyses was set at p < .05. This study examined the following research questions:








1. Is there a difference between students who have taken a college orientation class

and those who have not taken a college orientation class (in their first term) in retention

after 1 year, 2 years, 3 years, and 4 years?

An ANOVA was performed to test for mean differences in the variable of status

(completed a college orientation class during the first term of college as opposed to not

having taken a college orientation class during the 4-year period of the study) for retention

over the 4-year period of the study. The results indicated that there was no significant

difference found for the means of the independent variable of status. Table 1 shows the

means and standard deviations for the retention variable of students who had taken the

orientation class their first term and for students who had never taken the class.


Table 1

Means and Standard Deviations of the Variable Retention for Students First and Never

First Never
Variable N Mean SD N Mean SD

Retention 442 3.45701357 0.94001889 951 3.48370137 0.94004332



2. Is there a difference between students who have taken a college orientation class

and those who have not taken a college orientation class (in their first term) in number of

course withdrawals after 1 year, 2 years, 3 years, and 4 years?

An ANOVA was performed to test for mean differences in the variable of status

for number of course withdrawals after 1 year, 2 years, 3 years, and 4 years. There was

no significant difference found for the independent variable of status at the end of years 1,

2, 3, or 4. Table 2 shows the means and standard deviations of the total number of course








withdrawals for students who had taken the orientation class their first term and for

students who had never taken the class.


Table 2

Means and Standard Deviations of the Variable Withdrawal for Students First and Never

First Never
Variable N Mean SD N Mean SD

Withdrawals 1 442 0.97511312 1.30646938 951 1.07045216 1.32278801
Withdrawals2 442 2.18778281 2.27846769 951 2.35331230 2.26536556
Withdrawals 3 442 2.99773756 3.00830209 951 3.28706625 3.19582473
Withdrawals4 442 3.41402715 3.50872997 951 3.70347003 3.66324253




3. Is there a difference between students who have taken a college orientation class

those who have not taken a college orientation class (in their first term) in grade point

average after 1 year, 2 years, 3 years, and 4 years?

An ANOVA was performed to test for mean differences in the variable of

status for grade point average at the end of years 1, 2, 3, and 4. There was no

significant difference found for the independent variable of status at the end of years

1. 2, 3, or 4. Table 3 shows the means and standard deviations of the grade point average

for students who had taken the orientation class their first term and for students who had

never taken the class.

4. Is there a difference between students who have taken a college orientation

class and those who have not taken a college orientation class (in their first term) in total

number of courses repeated after 1 year, 2 years, 3 years, and 4 years?








Table 3

Means and Standard Deviations of the Variable Grade Point Average for Students First
and Never


Variable

GPA Year I
GPA Year 2
GPA Year 3
GPA Year 4


N

442
407
324
189


First
Mean

2.83476944
2.66605018
2.68291730
2.58157764


SD

0.76461336
0.76016249
0.69720083
0.61907624


N

951
856
735
433


Never
Mean

2.76646810
2.69091551
2.71155841
2.672 10337


SD

0.81220269
0.74779122
0.68446290
0.57705572


An ANOVA was performed to test for mean differences in the variable of status

for total number of courses repeated at the end of years 1, 2, 3. and 4. There was no

significant difference found for the independent variable of status at the end of years 1. 2.

3, or 4. Table 4 shows the means and standard deviations for total number of courses

repeated for students who had taken the orientation class their first term and for students

who had never taken the class.


Table 4

Means and Standard Deviations of the Variable Courses Repeated for Students First and
Never

First Never
Variable N Mean SD N Mean SD


Repeat Year 1 442 0.29864253 0.62193318 951 0.28601472 0.65067091
Repeat Year2 442 1.44796380 1.44223872 951 1.40063091 1.41880588
Repeat Year3 442 2.22398190 1.99024024 951 2.31650894 2.16083093
Repeat Year4 442 2.65610860 2.45028968 951 2.72344900 2.58095598








5. Is there a difference between students who have taken a college orientation class

and those who have not taken a college orientation class (in their first term) in total number

of credit hours at time of graduation?

Degrees were awarded to 705 participants; 220 (31.21%) of the graduates had

attended a college orientation class during their first term in college, while 485 (68.79%)

had never taken a college orientation class. An ANOVA was performed to test for mean

differences in the variable of status for total number of credit hours completed at the time

of graduation. There was no significant difference found for the independent variable of

status for total number of credit hours completed at the time of graduation. Table 5

shows the means and standard deviations of the total number of credit hours at time of

graduation for students who had taken the orientation class their first term and for

students who had never taken the class.


Table 5

Means and Standard Deviations of the Total Number of Hours at Graduation for
Students First and Never

First Never
Variable N Mean SD N Mean SD


Hours 220 55.96363636 18.09282371 483 58.03271222 16.92166742



6. Do age, gender, and race interact with taking a college orientation course (in their

first term) to affect retention, course withdrawal, grade point average, courses repeated,

and number of credit hours taken at time of graduation?








The analysis of the data indicate that no significant interaction was found between

age, gender, and race affecting retention, course withdrawal, grade point average, courses

repeated, and the number of credit hours taken at time of graduation.

Although the findings were not a part of the study, significant difference was

observed between the variables of gender, race/ethnicity, age, retention, course

withdrawals, grade point average, course repetitions, and number of credit hours at time of

graduation. The differences are listed below.

Retention. There was significant difference found between the means for the

independent variable of gender (F = 8.66, p = 0.0033). The ANOVA for retention over

the 4-year period of the study is shown in Table 6.


Table 6

Analysis of Variance of Retention by Status, Participant Age. Participant Gender, and
Participant Race


Source

Model
Error
Corrected Total
STATUS
AGE
GENDER
RACE
AGE*STATUS
STATUS*GENDER
STATUS*RACE
*p < .05


DF

11
1379
1390
1
1
1
3
1
1
3


Sum of Squares

30.6353807
1194.4012735
1225.0366643
0.23795158
2.2024441
7.50414382
5.24358248
0.23825365
0.53929166
3.97353360


Mean Square

2.7850355
0.8661358


0.23795158
2.20244411
7.50414382
1.74786083
0.23825365
0.53929166
1.32451120


F Value

3.22



0.27
2.54
8.66
2.02
0.28
0.62
1.53


Pr>F

0.0002



0.6003
0.1110
0.0033*
0.1095
0.6000
0.4302
0.2051








Course withdrawals. For year 1 there was significant difference found between

the means for the independent variable of race (F = 4.10. p 0.0060). The ANOVA for

number of course withdrawals for year 1 is shown in Table 7. For year 2 there was

significant difference found between the means for the independent variable of race (F

9.63, p 0.0001). The ANOVA for number of course withdrawals for year 2 is shown in

Table 8. For year 3 there was significant difference found between the means for the

independent variables of gender (F 8.47, p. 0.0037) and race (F = 10.05, p = 0.0001).

The ANOVA for number of course withdrawals for year 3 is shown in Table 9. For year

4 there was significant difference found between the means for the independent variables

of gender (F = 7.69, p = 0.0056 and race (F = 10.12, p 0.0001). The ANOVA for

number of course withdrawals for year 4 is shown in Table 10.


Table 7

Analysis of Variance of Grade W for First Year by Status, Participant Age, Participant
Gender, and Participant Race


Source DF Sum of Squares Mean Square F Value Pr>F

Model 11 37.3148491 3.3922590 1.97 0.0280
Error 1379 2375.6657404 1.7227453
Corrected Total 1390 2412.9805895
STATUS 1 0.3945499 0.3945499 0.23 0.6323
AGE 1 0.3385731 0.3385731 0.20 0.6576
GENDER 1 4.3060102 4.3060102 2.50 0.1141
RACE 3 21.1824458 7.0608153 4.10 0.0066*
AGE*STATUS 1 0.3953943 0.3953943 0.23 0.6320
STATUS*GENDER 1 1.3074086 1.3074086 0.76 0.3838
STATUS*RACE 3 7.6185752 2.5395251 1.47 0.2198
*p < .05








Table 8

Analysis of Variance of Grade W for Second Year by Status, Participant Age. Participant
Gender, and Participant Race



Source DF Sum of Squares Mean Square F Value Pr>F

Model 11 219.228604 19.929873 3.95 0.0001
Error 1379 6950.360181 5.04145
Corrected Total 1390 7169.588785
STATUS 1 5.327525 5.327525 1.06 0.3041
AGE 1 2.117441 2.117441 0.42 0.5170
GENDER 1 15.195126 15.195126 3.01 0.0827
RACE 3 145.650272 48.550091 9.63 0.0001*
AGE*STATUS 1 5.315728 5.315728 1.05 0.3046
STATUS*GENDER 1 8.115119 8.115119 1.61 0.2047
STATUS*RACE 3 15.496801 5.165600 1.02 0.3806
p < .05



Table 9

Analysis of Variance of Grade W for Third Year by Status, Participant Age, Participant
Gender, and Participant Race


Source DF Sum of Squares Mean Square F Value Pr>F

Model 11 496.363717 45.123974 4.71 0.0001
Error 1379 13221.839015 9.587991
Corrected Total 1390 137 18.202732
STATUS 1 1.525925 1.525925 0.16 0.6900
AGE 1 0.003586 0.003586 0.00 0.9846
GENDER 1 81.237458 81.327458 8.47 0.0037*
RACE 3 289.171837 96.390612 10.05 0.0001*
AGE*STATUS 1 1.522830 1.522830 0.16 0.6903
STATUS*GENDER 1 3.936260 3.936260 0.41 0.5218
STATUS*RACE 3 14.942826 4.980942 0.52 0.6689
p < .05








Table 10

Analysis of Variance of Grade W for Fourth Year by Status, Participant Age, Participant
Gender, and Participant Race


Source

Model
Error
Corrected Total
STATUS
AGE
GENDER
RACE
AGE*STATUS
STATUS*GENDER
STATUS*RACE
*p < .05


DF

11
1379
1390
1
1
1
3


Sum of Squares

627.403604
17574.963038
18202.366643
1.834703
0.002768
98.035054
386.847499
1.834346
11.254532
13.512303


Mean Square

57.036691
12.744716


1.834703
0.002768
98.035054
128.949166
1.834346
11.254532
4.504101


Grade point average. For year 1 there was significant difference found between the

data for the independent variables of age (F = 12.42, p = 0.0004) and gender (F = 27.64, p

= 0.0001). The ANOVA for grade point average at the end of year I is shown in Table 11.

For year 2 there was significant difference found between the data for the independent

variables of age (F = 10.24, p = 0.0014) and gender (F = 16.56, p = 0.0001). The

ANOVA for grade point average at the end of year 2 is shown in Table 12. For year 3

there was significant difference found between the data for the independent variables of

age (F = 7.12, p = 0.0077) and gender (F = 21.31, p = 0.0001). The ANOVA for grade

point average at the end of year 3 is shown in Table 13. For year 4 there was significant

difference found between the data for the independent variables of age (F = 5.00,


F Value

4.48



0.14
0.00
7.69
10.12
0.14
0.88
0.35


Pr>F

0.0001



0.7044
0.9882
0.0056*
0.0001'
0.7045
0.3475
0.7867








Table 11

Analysis of Variance of Grade Point Average for First Year by Status, Participant Age,
Participant Gender, and Participant Race


Source DF Sum of Squares Mean Square F Value Pr>F

Model 11 37.3315640 3.3937785 5.54 0.0001
Error 1379 844.0847950 0.6120992
Corrected Total 1390 881.4163590
STATUS 1 0.0045372 0.0045372 0.01 0.9314
AGE 1 7.6019451 7.6019451 12.42 0.0004*
GENDER 1 16.9169813 16.9169813 27.64 0.0001*
RACE 3 3.3885290 1.1295097 1.85 0.1370
AGE*STATUS 1 0.0042822 0.0042822 0.01 0.9334
STATUS*GENDER 1 0.2449933 0.2449933 0.40 0.5271
STATUS*RACE 3 2.1797364 0.7265788 1.19 0.3133
p < .05

Table 12

Analysis of Variance of Grade Point Average for Second Year by Status, Participant Age
Participant Gender, and Participant Race


Source DF Sum of Squares Mean Square F Value Pr>F

Model 11 22.2090554 2.0190050 3.67 0.0001
Error 1249 686.8816814 0.5499453
Corrected Total 1260 709.0907369
STATUS 1 0.01440218 0.01440218 0.03 0.0715
AGE 1 5.63229663 5.63229663 10.24 0.0014*
GENDER 1 9.10677269 9.10677268 16.56 0.0001*
RACE 3 1.20788600 0.40262867 0.73 0.5329
AGE*STATUS 1 0.01426665 0.01426665 0.03 0.8721
STATUS*GENDER 1 0.00023712 0.00023712 0.00 0.9834
STATUS*RACE 3 0.67785190 0.22595063 0.14 0.7452
p < .05








Table 13

Analysis of Variance of Grade Point Average for Third Year by Status. Participant Ae.
Participant Gender, and Participant Race


Source DF Sum of Squares Mean Square F Value Pr>F

Model 11 21.0784390 1.9162217 4.18 0.0001
Error 1047 479.9840352 0.4584375
Corrected Total 1058 501.0624741
STATUS 1 0.21867360 0.21867360 0.48 0.4899
AGE 1 3.26612552 3.26612552 7.12 0.0077*
GENDER 1 9.77137202 9.77137202 21.31 0.0001"
RACE 3 1.01590818 0.33863606 0.74 0.5291
AGE*STATUS 1 0.21904526 0.21904526 0.48 0.4896
STATUS*GENDER 1 0.00020426 0.00020426 0.00 0.9832
STATUS*RACE 3 2.78825962 0.92941987 2.03 0.1084
*p < .05


p = 0.0257) and gender (F = 4.37, p = 0.0369). The ANOVA for grade point average

at the end of year 4 is shown in Table 14.

Course repetition. For year 1 there was no significant difference found in any

variable on total number of courses repeated. For year 2 there was significant difference

found between the means for the independent variables of gender (F = 7.53, p = 0.0061)

and race (F = 9.28, p = 0.0001). The ANOVA for total number of courses repeated at the

end of year 2 is shown in Table 15. For year 3 there was significant difference found

between the means for the independent variables of gender (F = 5.83, p = 0.0159) and

race (F = 11.50, p = 0.0001). The ANOVA for total number of courses repeated at the

end of year 3 is shown in Table 16. For year 4 there was significant difference found

between the means for the independent variables of gender (F = 5.72, p = 0.0 169) and









Table 14

Analysis of Variance of Grade Point Average for Fourth Year by Status, Participant Age,
Participant Gender, and Participant Race


Source
Model
Error
Corrected Total
STATUS
AGE
GENDER
RACE
AGE*STATUS
STATUS*GENDER
STATUS*RACE


DF
11
610
621
1
1
1
3
1
1
3


Sum of Squares
7.37353517
209.60979766
216.98333283
0.47987170
1.71927736
1.50302624
2.41403692
0.84124716
0.05551744
1.35631888


Mean Square
0.67032138
0.34362262


0.47987170
1.71927736
1.50302624
0.80467897
0.48124716
0.05551744
0.45210629


*p < .05



Table 15

Analysis of Variance of Total Number of Courses Repeated at End of Second Year by
Status, Participant Age, Participant Gender, and Participant Race



Source DF Sum of Squares Mean Square F Value Pr>F

Model 11 98.5165411 8.9560492 4.53 0.0001
Error 1379 2729.1383835 1.9790706
Corrected Total 1390 2827.6549245
STATUS 1 1.6799207 1.6799207 0.85 0.3570
AGE 1 5.1530455 5.1530455 2.60 0.1068
GENDER 1 14.9025726 14.9025726 7.53 0.0061 *
RACE 3 55.0703488 18.3567829 9.28 0.0001*
AGE*STATUS 1 1.68363220 1.68363220 0.85 0.3565
STATUS*GENDER 1 0.1239002 0.1239002 0.06 0.8025
STATUS*RACE 3 7.1254743 2.3751581 1.20 0.3084
*p < .05


F Value
1.95



1.40
5.00
4.37
2.34
1.40
0.16
1.32


Pr>F
0.0309



0.23 78
0.0257*
0.03 69*
0.0722
0.2371
0.6879
0.2683








Table 16

Analysis of Variance of Total Number of Courses Repeated at End of Third Year by
Status, Participant Age, Participant Gender, and Participant Race


Source DF Sum of Squares Mean Square F Value Pr>F

Model 11 262.318836 23.847167 5.55 0.0001
Error 1379 5920.656002 4.293442
Corrected Total 1390 6182.974838
STATUS 1 0.628400 0.628400 0.15 0.7021
AGE 1 9.139642 9.139642 2.13 0.1448
GENDER 1 25.021574 25.021574 5.83 0.0159*
RACE 3 148.177154 49.392385 11.50 0.0001*
AGE*STATUS 1 0.628710 0.628710 0.15 0.7020
STATUS*GENDER 1 1.946039 1.946039 0.45 0.5009
STATUS*RACE 3 10.277452 3.425817 0.80 0.4950
*p < .05


race (F = 11.32. p = 0.0001). The ANOVA for total number of courses repeated at the

end of year 4 is shown in Table 17.

Number of credit hours at time of graduation. There was significant difference

found between the means for the independent variables of race (F = 6.34, p = 0.003). The

ANOVA for total number of credit hours completed at the time of graduation is shown in

Table 18.

This chapter presented discussion of the procedures for the analysis and the

results of this research. The results of the statistical analyses reveal that there were no

differences in group means between the individuals that participated in the college

orientation class and those that did not. These analyses indicate that taking a college

orientation class the first term at a community college does not have significant effect on








Table 17

Analysis of Variance of Total Number of Courses Repeated at End of Fourth Year by


Status, Participant Aye, Participant Gender. and


Particitgant Race


Source DF Sum of Squares Mean Square F Value Pr>F

Model 11 377.503092 34.318463 5.50 0.0001
Error 1379 8596.873616 6.234136
Corrected Total 1390 8974.376707
STATUS 1 1.724725 1.724725 0.28 0.5990
AGE 1 12.211825 12.211825 1.96 0.1619
GENDER 1 35.662231 35.662231 5.72 0.0169*
RACE 3 211.618224 70.539408 11.32 0.0001*
AGE*STATUS 1 1.719932 1.719932 0.28 0.5995
STATUS*GENDER 1 9.082397 9.082397 1.46 0.2276
STATUS*RACE 3 21.340644 7.113548 1.14 0.3313
p < .05


Table 18

Analysis of Variance of Total Number of Credit Hours at Time of Graduation by Status
Participant Age, Participant Gender, and Participant Race



Source DF Sum of Squares Mean Square F Value Pr>F

Model 11 8713.19005 792.10819 2.71 0.0020
Error 691 201640.85609 291.81021
Corrected Total 702 210354.04615
STATUS 1 370.76455 370.76455 1.27 0.2601
BYEAR 1 70.27562 70.27562 0.24 0.6238
GENDER 1 318.27432 318.27432 1.09 0.2967
RACE 3 5552.67397 1850.89132 6.34 0.0003*
BYEAR*STATUS 1 367.95877 367.95877 1.26 0.2619
STATUS*GENDER 1 99.74374 99.74374 0.34 0.5590
STATUS*RACE 3 1198.74887 399.58296 1.37 0.2510
p < .05


Particit)ant Race





77


retention, course withdrawal patterns, grade point average, courses repetition patterns,

and the total number of credit hours at time of graduation. A discussion of these results

and recommendations for further research are presented in Chapter 5.














CHAPTER 5
DISCUSSION

Purpose Overview

This study was designed to explore whether there is a significant relationship

between taking a community college orientation course during the first term and the

retention, persistence, and time to degree completion of students. The relationship of the

findings to the six research questions is discussed in this chapter. The remainder of this

chapter includes limitations of the study, implications of the findings and

recommendations, and the chapter summary.

Discussion of Results

Research Question I

The first research question addressed the issue of whether or not there is a

difference in retention between students who have taken an orientation class their first

term in college and those who have never taken an orientation class. Retention for this

study was based upon continuous enrollment either until degree completion or to the

point at which a student has not registered for classes for the following academic term.

According to Tinto (1993), integration with the social and academic systems of a college

early in a student's career is believed to enhance the individual's intentions and

commitments and, in turn, facilitates student retention. The college orientation class is

designed to integrate a student into the social and academic communities of the college,

therefore, promoting improved retention.








Results of this study indicate that students who had taken the class did not have a

difference in retention at the end of year 1, 2, 3, or 4 than students who had not taken the

college orientation class. There was no statistically significant difference between the

two student populations. The data indicated that a one hour college orientation class

does not impact retention of students at the community college who have completed a I -

credit-hour college orientation course during their first term.

Research Question 2

The second research question explored whether there is a difference in the number

of course withdrawals between students who have taken an orientation class their first

term in college and those who have never taken an orientation class. There was no

significant difference found in the number of course withdrawals between the two groups

studied over the 4-year period

A student's commitment to the institution and to the goal of college graduation

may be reflected in his/her course withdrawal pattern. A course withdrawal is not solely

an academic performance, or preparedness, indicator. Students at a community college

may withdraw from coursework due to schedule conflicts, economic issues, or as a result

of family or personal crisis. Integration into the academic and social systems of the

college promotes goal and degree completion (Tinto, 1993), thus reducing the need to

withdraw from coursework. The results of this study indicate that the orientation class is

not a sufficient intervention to influence course withdrawal over a longer time span.

Research Question 3

The third research question examined whether there was a difference in means of

grade point averages between students who had taken an orientation class their first term








in college and those who had never taken a college orientation class. The study does not

seem to support that one class at the start of a student's academic has a lasting impact on

academic performance through a 4-year tenure. There was no significant difference in

grade point averages between the two groups studied.

Research Question 4

The fourth research question examined the relationship between the number of

courses a student repeated during their academic career and their attendance in a college

orientation course their fist term in college. According to Tinto's (1993) theory of

student retention, the frequency of course repetition, as well as any educational

attainment strategy, is mediated by a student's connection to both the institution and

his/her own educational goals. Although not directly a measure of student commitment,

it appears that an orientation course taken during the first term does not affect a student's

connection to the institution. No significant difference was observed between the group

means for courses repeated based upon participation or nonparticipation in a college

orientation class.

Research Question 5

The fifth research question explored the total number of credit hours taken at the

time of graduation. The question attempted to understand if students who have taken a

college orientation class and have persisted to graduation have done so in a more efficient

manner. Efficiency is measured by the total number of credit hours accumulated at the

time the student requests to graduate. There was no significant difference in group means

for total number of hours at the time of graduation based upon participation or

nonparticipation in a college orientation class.








Research Question 6

The sixth research question sought to understand if there were any differences

within subsets of the population that had either taken or had not taken a 1-hour college

orientation class their first term at a community college. No direct main effect was

discovered between the study's dependent and independent variables, nor was there any

significant interaction between the variables of age, gender, race/ethnicity, and

participation in the class. The results of the study indicate that a 1-hour college

orientation class during the first term at a community college had no effect on the

dependent variables, regardless of the participant's age, gender, or race/ethnicity.

Although not a focus of the study, significant differences were found related to

gender, race/ethnicity, and age as they interacted with retention, number of class

withdrawals, grade point average, number of courses repeated, and total number of credit

hours at time of graduation independent of having taken, or not taken, a college

orientation class. Further analysis of these differences would have been beyond the scope

of this project.

The research questions attempted to assess the long-term impact of a college

orientation class upon first term, academically prepared community college students.

Based upon Tinto's (1993) work, it was predicted that the class would have an effect

upon a student's retention, number of course withdrawals, grade point average, number

of course repetitions, and total number of credit hours acquired at time of graduation

from the community college. The results of the study did not support the prediction.








Limitations

The study was limited by the inability to select randomly and assign participants

to classes and to control groups. This study did not control for the possibility that the

characteristics that shape a student's decision to take, or not to take, a college orientation

class may also impact his/her future academic progress and success. The study was

unable to assess prior differences between those students who enrolled in the college

orientation class and those who did not. There may have been a variety of other factors,

particularly motivation, that could also relate to future performance in college. Davis-

Underwood and Lee (1994) suggested that students who choose to participate in a

freshman seminar course are probably different from those who choose not to participate

in terms of motivational level and educational goals.

For the population in this study, taking a 1 -credit-hour college orientation class

during the first term in college did not influence the study's dependent variables. In the

absence of a pure experimental design, it is impossible to know if the outcomes of taking

the course have not been molded by selection factors.

Although the study found differences in retention by gender, these differences

were not related to the independent variable of participation/nonparticipation in an

orientation class. Equally, race/ethnicity and age appeared significant in relation to

retention variables but not in relation to having taken an orientation class. Caution

should be used not to make any generalizations about gender, age, or race/ethnicity based

on the findings of this study.








Implications of the Findings and Recommendations

This research has helped to increase understanding of the impact of taking a 1-

credit-hour college orientation class at the time a student enters the community college.

There are implications for theory, college practice, and research.

Implications for Theory

Tinto's (1993) model stated that individuals enter institutions of higher education

with varying background attributes and experiences. These characteristics affect the

student's initial goal commitment and initial commitment to the institution. As students

establish themselves within the new institution, they interact with two primary systems in

the college community--the academic system and the social system. Over a period of

time, this interaction of background variables and initial commitments with the academic

and social systems results in varying degrees of academic integration and social

integration. The process of interaction leads to further changes in commitments, which

leads ultimately to persistence or departure from the college. Academic and social

integration are the factors most critical in the decision to drop out. "Given individual

characteristics, prior experiences, and commitments, the model argues that it is the

individuals integration into the academic and social systems of the college that most

directly relates to his continuance in that college" (Tinto, 1975, p. 96).

The college orientation class is designed to integrate the student into the social

and academic systems of college (Astin, 1993; Gardner, 1986). It was assumed the social

and academic interaction that takes place in a college orientation class enhances both

intentions and commitments. This study investigated if taking a 1-credit college

orientation class, which is presumed to build both academic and social community. leads








to greater retention for college ready participants over a 4-year period. Institutional

measures used to assess retention were enrollment, number of course repetitions and

withdrawals, and grade point average. The results of the research, however, did not find

support for linkages between Tinto's theoretical model and a 1-hour orientation class.

Based upon Tinto's theory (1975), this research assumed that intentions and

commitment are continuously shaped and molded by the student's experiences in college.

This study focused on the temporal character of persistence and the transition process

from past community to membership in the new communities of the college. Tinto did

not describe change in levels of intention and commitment in relation to a specific time

frame. Instead, he described integration as a fluid process not restrained by boundaries.

When viewing integration from an institutional programming viewpoint, academic and

social integration may have developmental qualities that are sequential or governed by

stage or time. Retention strategies may be limited in the minimum length of time

necessary before producing meaningful results. Although the research did not test or

measure student integration into the college, it may suggest that time plays a role in the

process of integration into the academic and social communities of a community college.

A longer period of academic contact than is possible in a single orientation class could

translate to measurable differences.

The study was based upon a 1-credit-hour class format. The college orientation

class is also taught at other institutions as a 2- and 3-credit-hour class. A survey of 696

higher education institutions by Barefoot (1992) reported that the majority of orientation

classes (85.6%) awarded academic credit. The majority of those classes were taught as 1-

credit-hour classes (44.8% awarded I credit hour, 13.15 awarded 2 credit hours, and








19.2% awarded 3 credit hours). Although this study indicates that a 1-credit-hour college

orientation class did not show long-term influence to retention factors, it would be

important to understand if this situation would change with longer periods of class

contact and follow-up campus activities. There may be a minimum threshold of time

necessary before it is possible to establish a meaningful environment in which integration

can take place. Additional study of the class in a 2- and 3-credit-hour format with

community involvement assignments is recommended.

The study did not find any influence from the college orientation class during the

4-year period. The fact that change was not observed may lend support to other studies

reporting that any positive influence of the orientation class diminishes over time

(Napoli, 1996; Belcher et al., 1987). Although the 1-credit college orientation class may

provide a rich starting point for the new student, there is no indication that the benefits

from this experience are lasting.

Implications for College

College orientation classes may not be an appropriate response for all student

populations. A college orientation class has been shown to benefit students who are

academically disadvantaged. Blackhurst (1994) found that the college orientation class

taken the first term increases the academic performance of low-achieving students

relative to other students. All participants in this study were selected based upon their

college ready academic status. A college orientation class may be beneficial for students

who have skills deficits and reason to believe that they are not a full members of a

community of learning. The class could conceivably be better suited for remedial

students at their point of entry to the institution.








The study also leads to questions regarding what are the qualities that constitute

what is perceived as genuine community. Interventions designed to foster a sense of

community are structured within the bureaucracy of higher education. Structured

experiences may not be removed enough from the system to allow students a sense of

ownership. The college orientation class, as well as learning communities and other

retention strategies, may not manifest or capture the necessary serendipity of academic or

social integration. It is possible that students perceived the class environment to be

artificial.

Why would a college orientation class environment appear unnatural? The

students may not have identified the class as a "genuine" academic accomplishment. The

college orientation class does not satisfy general education requirements for any of the

four schools in the study. Although the class earns elective credits that are applied

towards degree satisfaction, the class is sometimes perceived not to be academically

challenging. This may generate from the course's nontraditional college subject material.

In observing the range of grades awarded for the orientation class at all four

institutions in the study, the class has a high success rate. For the 442 students in the

study who had completed a college orientation class, 285 (64.48%) received a grade of A:

100 (22.62%) received a grade of B; 41 (9.28) received a grade of C; 8 (1.81%) received

a grade of D; and 8 (1.81%) failed the class. The high success rate for students in the

class may have a reverse message to the participants. The course may be thought of as

being "easy." It is possible that if a class does not meet an individual's criteria as a valid

academic experience, the class may not create an effective academic or social integration

experience.








Recommendations for Future Research

This study leads to several recommendations for future research. These

recommendations could enhance the understanding of the impact of a college orientation

class at the community college level.

1. Given that the present study did not find that the 1-credit-hour orientation class

had an impact on the variables studied, it is important to know whether a longer period of

contact would create a measurable difference. Further investigation is necessary to

understand whether a 2- or 3-credit-hour orientation class is an adequately intensive

intervention to bring about change in retention, number or classes withdrawals, grade

point average, number of course repetitions, and total number of credit hours at time of

graduation.

2. Looking closer at institutional impact upon the campus environment can add to

the understanding of the college orientation class. How variations from one campus to

another impact the effectiveness of the college entry for students is not well understood.

Gordon and Crites (1984) asserted that the primary purpose of a college orientation class

must be defined by the needs of the students on a specific campus. Furthermore, data that

ignore institutional context will rarely be generalizable from institution to institution

(Cope & Hannah, 1975). This study focused on schools within a state system that

maintained similar degree requirements and common course classification. This may not

be enough to understand the differences of campus interaction upon the college

orientation class participants. A study that explores the influence of institutional

characteristics on college orientation classes is recommended.








3. When studying variables of retention, general institutional databases may not

be sufficient to measure critical differences in the student experience. The results of this

study may indicate that only knowing if a student has, or has not, taken the class is in

itself too broad a variable to determine what has impacted the developmental variables

under consideration. A broader range of student information would add insight to

understanding potential impact of the orientation process in facilitating the development

of academic and social community. Future research projects are recommended that study

additional retention markers, based on Tinto's theory, that can be easily incorporated into

institutional databases. For example, although it was not possible in this study (due to the

use of historical data), knowing each participant's initial major and highest expected

degree would provide a more complete view of the individuals intentions and aspirations.

4. The study was restricted by the absence of random selection and

random assignment. It is impossible to know if the student who voluntarily chooses to

takes a college orientation class is different than one who does not register for the class

their first semester. Future research of the college orientation class would be enhanced

by an experimental, longitudinal design.
Summary

In this chapter, the results of the statistical analysis of the data are discussed. The

dependent variables were (a) date of degree completion or end of continuous enrollment,

(b) cumulative grade point average at the end of each measurement period, (c) total

number of course withdrawals at the end of each measurement period, (d) total number of

course repetitions at the end of each measurement period, and (e) total number of credit

hours attained at the end of each measurement period. The independent variables were





89

(a) participation/nonparticipation in a college orientation class, (b) sex, (c) race/ethnicity.

and (d) age. Limitations of the research were considered. Implications of the results for

theory and college practice were discussed. Finally, suggestions were made for further

research.














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