Date of Award

Winter 2008

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Educ Foundations & Leadership

Program/Concentration

Higher Education

Committee Director

Gwendolyn Lee-Thomas

Committee Member

J. Worth Pickering

Committee Member

Fred A. Bonner, II

Abstract

With a decrease in state and federal funding, higher educational institutions need to focus on retaining students. However, student retention is a multifaceted problem that requires varied solutions. Traditional measures, or cognitive measures, of student success, such as pre-college knowledge (SAT and high school grade point average) have not explained how higher education institutions retained students, especially students who are considered at-risk. Since the nature of student retention is idiosyncratic, research needs to focus on other measures, such as students' non-cognitive factors. Tinto has outlined non-cognitive factors, such as pre-college characteristics, goals and commitments, and institutional experiences, which influence students' academic success and retention to the institution. Using Tinto's model as a framework for this study, the purpose of this research was to examine the non-cognitive characteristics of at-risk first-year students to determine if there were differences between students who were academically successful and academically unsuccessful students and students who were retained and not retained to the institution. For the purposes of this study, at-risk students were identified by utilizing the Transition to College Inventory(TCI), which measures Tinto's pre-college characteristics and goals and commitments. Additionally, first-year students' institutional experiences were examined using the Freshmen Experience Survey.

This study's sample included all first-year students who were identified as medium or high risk, based on the TCI (n = 3,667). Additionally, students needed to complete the First-Year Biographical Questionnaire (BioQ) and the First-Year Experiences Survey (FES) to be included in this study. Logistical regression analyses were performed to test eight hypotheses. Results of the analyses performed revealed that pre-college characteristics, goals and commitments, and institutional experiences were significantly different for those at-risk first-year students who were academically successful than for those who were not successful. Additionally, analyses revealed that pre-college characteristics were significantly different for at-risk first-year students who were retained to the institution to the following fall semester than for those who were not retained.

Results from this study can inform higher educational practitioners about the types of programming and services needed to assist at-risk first-year students to become academically successful and be retained by the institution.

DOI

10.25777/08en-e232

ISBN

9780549936404

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