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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Evaluating a Conceptual Model for First-Year Retention of Students at Public Comprehensive Colleges in California
by Case, Matthew H., Ed.D., California State University, Long Beach, 2020, 259; 28003076
Abstract (Summary)

While improving, bachelor’s degree attainment remains low and unequal by race and socioeconomic status, which perpetuates social inequities in the United States. As the largest and most diverse 4-year university system in the country, California State University (CSU) has set goals to expand college access while dramatically improving graduation rates and eliminating equity gaps in college completion. As the CSU grants more baccalaureate degrees than any other higher education institution in the state, expanding access and improving student retention will be necessary to close these gaps and meet needs for college-educated workers. A range of individual, institutional, and policy factors have been shown to influence retention and persistence outcomes, and many agree that students’ transition to and continued enrollment during the first year is critical to both student and institutional success. Less studied in the context of student enrollment and persistence is the relevance of students’ proximity in relation to college enrollment and persistence, particularly at more regionally focused institutions.

The purpose of this study was to better understand the factors associated with retention of first-time students from California high schools attending 4-year public comprehensive colleges in the state. Based on relevant theoretical and empirical literature on student retention and persistence, a conceptual framework for first-year student retention was developed to guide variable selection and modeling. The resulting conceptual model focuses on the influence of 8 components, including student background and pre-college characteristics, environmental pull factors, institutional allegiance, institutional support and quality, college experiences, academic performance, and institutional commitment.

The study utilized a quantitative longitudinal design to examine relationships between these factors and retention from the second to third semester. The sample included 4,325 first-time students from California high schools from the Fall 2016 entering first-time cohort at 6 urban, 4-year, primarily non-residential (e.g., commuter) colleges in California, based on administrative data and survey data from the Spring 2017 administration of the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE).

Findings indicate that enrolling at a college further from home, being required to complete developmental coursework in both English and Math, having a higher perceived likelihood that financial problems may delay completing college, and working off-campus more than half-time (21 or more hours per week) were associated with reduced likelihood of returning for a second year. Students with higher grades, STEM majors, and those more satisfied with their institutional choice were more likely to be retained, controlling for other factors. Student background characteristics, financial aid and institutional and student engagement factors did not have direct relationship with retention for the full sample, but were associated with improved academic performance during the first year. Analyzing the sample by the subgroups of race/ethnicity, Pell status, and distance from home found a consistent influence of first-year grades on retention as well as different factors influencing retention across these student groups.

The findings provide a greater understanding of pre-college and college environmental influences on retention in urban commuter 4-year colleges in California. Based on the findings, specific recommendations are provided for institutional practice in enrollment management and student affairs as well as state and institutional policies related to access, student financial aid, and college planning for K-12 students and staff.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Locks, Angela M.
Commitee: Preide Schubert, Alejandra, Minor, James T., Klima, Kerry
School: California State University, Long Beach
Department: Educational Leadership
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 82/5(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Higher education, Educational administration, Educational leadership, Education Policy, Educational sociology
Keywords: Distance from college, Persistence, Regional comprehensive colleges, Student retention, Student engagement, California, Public comprehensive colleges, Four-year colleges, Bachelor's degree, United States, Social inequalities, Access to education, College enrollment, K-12 students, College planning
Publication Number: 28003076
ISBN: 9798691282997
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