Academic journal article College Student Journal

College Persistence and Student Attitudes toward Financial Success

Academic journal article College Student Journal

College Persistence and Student Attitudes toward Financial Success

Article excerpt

This study found that students who highly valued financial success were less likely to continue at the same institution from their first to their second year of college and were more likely to drop out of college than students who valued financial success less. This finding supports the hypothesis that students who consider financial success very important discount future benefits at a higher rate than do other students. Also contributing to the relationship between persistence and attitude toward financial success is the idea that many students who highly value success select ill-fitting majors and drop out of college discouraged.


For more than thirty years, researchers have been interested in the issue of student retention in college. (See Spady (1970, 1971) and Astin (1972) and the bibliographies in Bean and Metzner (1985) or Tinto (1993).) While some students leave school because of academic dismissal, "only 15 to 25 percent of all institutional departures arise because of academic failure" (Tinto, 1993, pp. 81-82). The vast majority of students who leave college prior to degree completion withdraw voluntarily.

In his work on college persistence, Tinto (1993 and 1997) emphasized the importance of social and academic integration. The more a student's experiences serve to integrate the student socially and intellectually into the life of the institution, the more likely the student is to persist until degree completion. If a student is poorly integrated into the institution, the student is more likely to withdraw prior to degree completion.

Braxton (2000) reported that multi-institutional tests provide strong support for the influence of academic integration on persistence, while single-institutional tests provide only modest backing. Braxton's recommendations include replications of studies in different types of institutions and with different types of students. He suggests that different theories may be needed to explain the departure behavior of specific subgroups of students from specific categories of schools.

Social Cognitive Career Theory places importance on intra-personal factors and self-perceptions. (Kahn and Nauta, 2001). Attitudes of self-efficacy, or confidence in one's academic ability, are formed prior to college but are modified during the college experience. When academic self-efficacy is low, a student is less likely to persist in college. Bean and Eaton (2000) combined self-efficacy assessment with two other psychological processes in their retention model. The coping process involves approach (asking questions in class or pursuing tutoring) or avoidance (avoiding courses or avoiding studying). Attribution concerns whether the student's locus of control is internal or external. The student may believe either that outcomes are attributable to personal characteristics such as aptitude and skill or that situations are due to factors outside of his/her control. These processes determine the extent of academic and social integration, the institutional fit and attachment, and persistence behavior.

Some research has explored the influence of financial factors. For example, St. John (1990) found that tuition increases only had a significantly negative impact on persistence in the second-to-third year transition. He also found that, in most years, student persistence is significantly positively related to increases in grants, loans, and work-study income, in an analysis of freshmen-to-sophomore year retention, Long (1998) explored the impacts of different types of financial aid. Of merit-based gift aid, need-based gift aid, loans, and work-study income, only merit-based aid had a significantly positive effect on retention. Reynolds and Weagley (2003) determined that work-study aid was positively related to persistence to degree completion, but loan aid was negatively related. St. John (2000) stated that negative impacts of financial aid on persistence in the 1990s indicated that grant aid was no longer adequate to promote persistence, especially in public colleges. …

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