Academic journal article College Student Journal

Student Persistence and Use of a College Success Course in Proprietary Postsecondary Education

Academic journal article College Student Journal

Student Persistence and Use of a College Success Course in Proprietary Postsecondary Education

Article excerpt

This study was a combined causal-comparative and quasi-experimental exploration that related Tinto's Theory of Student Integration to the use of a college success course as a student persistence tool in a for-profit postsecondary setting. It sought to explore whether any relationship existed between student persistence and participation in the institution's college success course. Data were gathered through a collection of secondary academic records data. No statistically significant difference in persistence was identified between students who were required to enroll in the college success course and students who were exempted from course enrollment per institutional policy.


As the financial climate in our nation eroded, a renewed interest in education arose. Many workers lost jobs and used this period of unemployment as an opportunity to further their education. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES, 2011), between 2000 and 2009, there was a 43% increase in the number of students age 25 and over who enrolled in postsecondary study. The percentage well surpassed the enrollment of younger students. The enrollment of students under 25 experienced a 27% increase (NCES, 2011). The pattern has been expected to continue, according to NCES, who projected that from 2010 to 2019, there would be a 9% rise in the enrollments of students under 25, and a 23% rise in the enrollments of students 25 and over.

Many of those returning to school sought training in career preparation or technical fields, which have been a staple for proprietary institutions. Traditionally, proprietary postsecondary institutions found a niche in their purpose of providing education and training in preparation for the workplace. NCES (2011) maintained that for-profit institutions surpassed community colleges in completion rates for 2-year degrees. Sixty percent of graduates earning associates degrees graduated from for-profit colleges, compared to 22% from community colleges. According to the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), enrollment in for-profit, degree-granting institutions increased 52% between 1995 and 2000. Further, 1,187,198 students enrolled in private, for-profit postsecondary institutions in 2007 (U.S. Department of Education, 2008).

As demands for educational reform abounded, institutions competed to attract and retain students. Dialogue regarding student success and persistence became the pinnacle of institutional strategic planning. Approximately 57% of college students at 4-year institutions did not return for their 2nd year of study (Tinto, 1993). Often, the determining factors were lack of preparedness, lack of social and academic integration to the campus, and student commitment, as originally postulated by Tinto in 1975. Multiple subsequent studies yielded confirmatory results through identification of similar predictors of persistence (Baker, Caison & Meade, 2007; Freeman, Hall, & Bresciani, 2007; Hausmann, Schofield, & Woods, 2007; Mannan, 2007; Thompson, Orr, Thompson, & Grover, 2007; Woosley & Miller, 2009). Yet other studies, although confirmatory of Tinto's basic integration theory, argued the flaws of the theory, suggesting it was limited to a specific student population (Seidman, 2005). Many other widely accepted models for student integration offered expansions of the original concept to include factors such as lack of financial resources (Cabrera, Nora, & Castaneda, 1992) or behavioral aspects of college life, involvement, and social interaction (Astin, 1993). Even Tinto expanded the original theory in 1987 and 1993 through recognition that integration had longitudinal influences that emerged beyond those student traits present upon initial enrollment (Tinto, 1987, 1993).

In attempts to increase student persistence, colleges and universities offered freshman-seminar courses aimed at acclimating students to college life and presenting a scenario of the balance between adulthood and the pursuit of education (Gardner & Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges, 2001). …

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