Academic journal article Community College Enterprise

At Issue: A Comprehensive Review and Synthesis of the Literature on Late Registration

Academic journal article Community College Enterprise

At Issue: A Comprehensive Review and Synthesis of the Literature on Late Registration

Article excerpt

Using a literature review taxonomy described by Cooper and Hedges (2009), an analysis of 32 publicly available studies of late registrations was conducted to provide researchers and policymakers with an assessment of the extent, quality, and major findings of the studies. The reviewer asserted that few high-quality studies have been conducted on late registration, and the research does not provide strong evidence that late registration is associated with poor student outcomes. The review provided answers to the following questions: What does the body of research on late registration indicate about the advisability of retaining it as an option for students? What research methods--and of what quality--have been employed? What research remains to be done? What are the implications for policy and college operations?


Although definitions and policies vary, late registration generally refers to the practice of registering for a class after the start date for the semester (O'Banion, 2012). Some policymakers and practitioners laud late registration for granting access to students who otherwise would not be able to enroll in a given semester (Weiss, 1999), while others derogate late registration as detrimental to students and institutions (O'Banion, 2012). The issue is of particular importance in the current community college context because of increasing scrutiny and assessment of student success (American, 2013). A number of theoretical models have been proposed for understanding student success or persistence. For example, Tinto (1993) focused on academic and social integration, while Bean and Metzner (1985) investigated the importance of the educational environment. Although personal factors may be the primary determinants of student attrition (Cotnam & Ison, 1988), institutions can also influence student success (Habley, Bloom, & Robbins, 2012). One can therefore infer from student success theory that late registration may have a negative effect on student engagement and the educational environment within which students pursue goals.


There seems to be gathering momentum for critically reexamining the policy that allows students to register late for classes (Center, 2012; Shriner, 2014). A comprehensive synthesis of more than 50 years of research on late registration has the potential to identify salient findings as well as trends in the kinds of questions posed and the methods for addressing those questions.


Theoretical Approach

Cooper and Hedges (2009) proposed a taxonomy of six characteristics of a literature review: focus, goal, perspective, coverage, organization, and audience. Table 1 summarizes the approach taken in this review. An integration goal of a review can include "formulating general statements that characterize multiple specific instances" (p. 4). The neutral perspective indicates that the reviewer does not begin with an a priori assumption or argument, although it does not preclude the reviewer from offering summative judgments based on the evidence. This review will be exhaustive within the parameters noted below; however, for the sake of brevity purposeful sampling will be used when citing specific examples.

Inclusion/Exclusion Criteria

Included in this literature review were qualitative and/or quantitative investigations at colleges and universities of one or more of the following aspects of late registration: frequency of occurrence of late registration; characteristics of students who register late; reasons students register late; student, faculty, staff, and administrator attitudes toward late registration; and associations between late registration behavior and academic performance. Studies which examined registration timing as a continuous variable without discriminating between on-time and late registration were excluded because they did not provide evidence specifically related to late registration. …

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