Academic journal article Journal of Higher Education

Staying in College: Moderations of the Relation between Intention and Institutional Departure

Academic journal article Journal of Higher Education

Staying in College: Moderations of the Relation between Intention and Institutional Departure

Article excerpt


The present study tests hypotheses pertaining to moderators of the relation between intention and institutional departure. The hypotheses are derived from a review of the literature on college student departure, the theory of reasoned action [4], and Azjen's [3] conceptual analysis of the factors that cause intentions to degenerate.

Intention represents a determination to act in a certain way in the future [24]. Intention plays a key role in Bean's [9, 10] model of attrition because it is conceptualized as the most proximal determinant of institutional departure. This model of attrition has been applied successfully to diverse populations of college students [11, 12, 13, 22, 23]. Several studies have found that intention to leave is a significant predictor of subsequent attrition [8, 14, 15, 17, 22]. Nonetheless, for example, Metzner and Bean [23] found that intention to leave, grades, and 24 other predictor variables, in concert, accounted for only 29% of the variance in attrition. A bivariate analysis of data reported in Okun, Ruehlman, and Karoly [29] reveals that intention by itself explained only 13% of the variance in institutional departure. What accounts for the moderate relation between intention (to stay or transfer) and institutional persistence? The present study investigates the possibility that the magnitude of the relation between intention and subsequent enrollment behavior varies with (a) grades, (b) commitment, and (c) encouragement from others to stay.

Review of the Literature

Grades. According to Bean [9], grades are an academic outcome, which can be conceptualized as quasi-economic rewards. Even when students dismissed for inadequate grades are eliminated, grades have been shown to predict persistence [2, 13, 31]. There is also some evidence that the relation between GPA and institutional departure may be nonlinear. Andrieu and St. John [5] reported that graduate students with intermediate GPAs had the highest rate of institutional departure. In studies with undergraduate samples, St. John and colleagues [37, 38] found that students with below "C" grades were more likely to persist than students with "B" grades, and students with "B" grades were more likely to persist than students with either mostly "C" grades or "A" grades. Therefore, in the present study, we examined whether semester GPA has a nonlinear effect on institutional departure.

Commitment. Tinto [40,41] theorized that commitment to the goal of attaining a degree (goal commitment) and commitment to one's college (institutional commitment) were proximal determinants of institutional departure. Empirical tests of the presumed linkages among the constructs of academic and social integration and goal and institutional commitment and between these constructs and persistence behavior have been equivocal [25, 26, 27, 32, 33]. More recently, Spanard [39] suggested that commitment to the college role needs to be assessed in the context of nonacademic roles. Consequently, in the present study, we defined commitment as the priority students place on doing well in college relative to goals associated with other roles.

Encouragement to stay. Lack of encouragement from others to stay is posited by Bean and Metzner [14] to be an important environmental variable which exerts both direct and indirect effects on institutional departure. Tinto [41] noted that memberships in external communities may be crucial to departure decisions, particularly for commuter students. External communities may affect institutional departure by exerting normative influence [8]. Normative influence occurs when individuals tell another person how they should or should not behave. Bank, Slavings, and Biddle [8] found that the social influence of parents and peers (but not faculty) had strong direct effects on institutional departure. Other studies confirm that encouragement from others affects the decision to depart [19, 26, 27, 28]. …

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