Academic journal article College Student Journal

College Student Retention: Instrument Validation and Value for Partnering between Academic and Counseling Services

Academic journal article College Student Journal

College Student Retention: Instrument Validation and Value for Partnering between Academic and Counseling Services

Article excerpt

Designed to explore the utility of a retention assessment of students within a college of education, and using Pascarella and Terenzini's (1983) academic and social integration scales, this study found several pertinent results: (a) Factor analyses of the scales support earlier validation studies with first-year college students, and (b) The scales differentiate academic integration, social integration, and career decidedness between students who have been identified as at-risk (i.e., on probation, previously on academic suspension) and those who have not been so identified. The utility of these scales for use in partnered programming between university counseling services and faculty is also considered.


Universities and the undergraduate professional colleges within them (e.g., business, engineering, education) need to first attract and then retain high quality students (Archer & Cooper, 1999). Retention is a long-standing challenge that institutions continue to address (Braxton, Bray, & Berger, 2000). Counseling can play an important role in this process; but because of heavy case loads, college student counselors need efficient ways to identify students at-risk and ways to partner with professional schools and academic departments so they, too, can help with retention issues (Archer & Cooper, 1999).

Two variables important to retention efforts are academic and social integration (Tinto, 1993). Students are academically and socially integrated when they have positive regard for their academic performance and they value the social relationships they have established at the institution. Tinto (1975) articulated a model of college student persistence/withdrawal based on these variables, and Pascarella and Terenzini (1983) generated scales to measure them.

In this study, Pascarella and Terenzini's scales were used to measure academic and social integration in a sample of students enrolled in an introductory education course. The course was part of the required course work leading to state teacher certification. The scales were part of a survey developed by the authors that was administered to the students at the beginning of the semester and then at the end of the semester. Data from the scales was employed in the following analyses. First, the scales were explored through principal component analysis to add to the extant literature on the internal structure, validity, and reliability of these scales. Second, the scales were used to explore differences between those students in the sample who had been identified as at-risk and those who had not been so identified. This was done to ascertain whether the scales discriminated between two identifiable and quite different subpopulations in the sample. The discrimination function was seen as a preliminary exploratory step to building meaningful norms that could be used by college student services personnel as they work with students and faculty on student retention and institutional fit issues.

In the discussion section of this paper, the results of these analyses become the centerpiece in a discussion of the initiator-catalyst (I/C) model, whereby counselors can work with undergraduate professional schools to build collaborative relationships to enhance a wide range of institutional objectives (Archer & Cooper, 1998; 1999). We believe such collaborative relationships are important for two reasons. First, such relationships can help undergraduate professional schools better achieve their overarching objective of attracting and retaining the most able and highly committed students to their programs. Second, collaboration between counseling services and professional schools provides avenues for such services to be more deeply embedded in the academic culture of the institution thereby enhancing counseling's important contribution to institutional goals. In the remainder of this introduction, we explore Tinto's model of college student retention, including the academic and social integration constructs, which are a direct outgrowth of Tinto's model. …

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