Academic journal article Issues in Informing Science & Information Technology

An Analytical Investigation of the Characteristics of the Dropout Students in Higher Education

Academic journal article Issues in Informing Science & Information Technology

An Analytical Investigation of the Characteristics of the Dropout Students in Higher Education

Article excerpt


Institutions of post-secondary higher education usually measure their success by looking at student's persistence, attrition, or dropout rates. When the persistence is high, institutions pat themselves on the back and it is business as usual. Once the dropout rate rises, however, they panic and try to investigate the reasons for the dropouts. The dropout topic is very challenging and painful especially for private non-profit institutions, which have the reputation of being 95-99% tuition driven. Their survival depends on keeping the persistence rate as high as possible and the dropout rates as low as possible. Yet, analyzing the reasons for the increase in dropout rates remains an immense task, not only because of the complexity of and correlation between variables, but also because the literature failed to create any consensus on the definition of 'dropout' or define any model institutions can follow. Moreover, institutions do not have a consistent and systematic way of collecting dropout data.

Research reflects inconsistency in defining the "dropout" term. One-definition states, "dropout as referring to those persons who leave the college at which they are registered" (Tinto & Cullen, 1973, p. 1). A second definition of dropout is "dropout as referring only to those persons who never receive a degree from any institution of higher education." (Tinto & Cullen, 1973, p. 1). Addressing this definition is almost an impossible task due to lack of access to reliable data.

For the purpose of this study, the operational definition is as follows: "Students are considered to have dropped out if they did not register for courses the following semester from the institution." The definition follows the structure of the USA Department of Education definition of the term "retention", which is defined as "the student who registered for the fall term and did not register for the following fall in the same institution." (National Center for Education Statistics [NCES], 2017) It has its positive and negative factors. Its positive aspect lies primarily in analyzing longitudinal data to predict if the university is using its resources efficiently and effectively. The negative aspect is that it includes students who may have transferred to another institution to earn their degree

This study will examine a cohort of students who joined an institution in Fall 2016 and follow their registration pattern for 3 consecutive semesters: Fall 2016, Spring 2017, and Fall 2017. Students who dropped out are those students who registered in Fall 2016 but failed to register in either Spring 2017 or Fall 2017.

The paper includes a two pronged analysis of first-year traditional-age registered students who continued and who dropped out. The first analysis utilizes descriptive and cross- tabulation statistics of their ethnic background, gender, age, and academic achievement. Financial data analysis will be considered in a following study due to issues in data collection. The analysis considers the use of various academic programs designed to facilitate the students' transition to college, to improve both their academic and social experience, and to reduce the dropout rate. In addition to the descriptive analysis, a predictive model is developed using logistic regression in order to identify students who may be susceptible to dropping out in order to take corrective action.

The paper starts with a literature review where high school dropout statistics is presented followed by higher education dropouts. The design section presents the model. The methodology will follow. The Findings and results section will present the data analysis and testing results of the model followed. The paper concludes by presenting the implications and summary of the study with future recommendations.


The problem of increased illiteracy and high school and/or college dropouts is an international problem. …

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