Academic journal article Community College Review

Forces That Influence Late-Admitted Students

Academic journal article Community College Review

Forces That Influence Late-Admitted Students

Article excerpt

The author used orientational qualitative inquiry to capture advisors' perceptions of students who register late when they enroll in community college. The resulting profile of late-admits developed from semi-structured one-hour interviews with 17 advisors at three community colleges is discussed in relationship to models of attrition developed by Tinto and Bean and Metzner. The advisors' perceptions revealed distinct differences between traditional age (18 to 20) and nontraditional age late-admits.

Attrition is a major problem for postsecondary education in general and for community colleges in particular. As open-access colleges, by virtue of their mission to serve any student with a high school diploma or G.E.D., community colleges admit a larger percentage of part-time students, nontraditional students, students in need of remediation, and other high-risk students than colleges with more selective admission policies. In general, these students may be less prepared for college and at greater risk for failure (Cohen & Brawer, 1996).

Existing research indicates that community college students who become attrition statistics have common characteristics. They are older than traditional students, attend school part-time, are employed full-time, and often need remedial courses (Windham, 1994). In a study of community college students who did not persist, 74% were enrolled part-time and 43% worked full-time (Seppanen, 1995). These same characteristics are found in nontraditional students, at-risk students, and the general population attending community colleges.

The traditional student in a two-year college is nontraditional by virtue of his or her age, life situation, or both. Even the younger students enrolled in a two-year or community college often have obligations that preclude them from devoting the same time and effort to their studies as their traditional counterparts. These students may be single parents or self-supporting. They do not have the luxury of being immersed intellectually, emotionally, or physically in the academic environment. With the numbers of such students increasing, the reality is that nontraditional students are far less likely to leave the institution with degrees in their hands (Bean & Metzner, 1985).

Colleges waste hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars each year as a result of attrition (Jones, 1986). Though there is agreement about the characteristics of attrition, there is little agreement about what should be done about it (Jones, 1986). According to Horton, "we must develop a total integrated approach--an approach that can coalesce the fragments of researched knowledge into systematic program implementation" (Horton, 1980, p. 1).

Tinto's (1993) model of attrition recognizes that pre-entry attributes and each student's goals and commitments can be precursors to the student's transition to college. Thus, students who are not prepared for the transition may begin a process leading to attrition even before the first day of class. Nevertheless, students applying to a rolling admission, open-access college, can be admitted and registered the day classes begin, without any forethought or preparation. Little research has been conducted on students who are late-admits.

One study of 6,278 late registrants (registering during the first 10 days of class) found that these students were more likely to be part-time, older students. Students who registered late indicated that they just decided to attend (26%), they had just arrived in town (17.4%), or had just procrastinated (15.8%) (Belcher & Patterson, 1990). Given that late registrants are more likely to be part-time, older, and less motivated to register early, late-admitted students may also be more vulnerable to the factors that result in attrition. Institutions that allow late admission may be doing a disservice to students who have not adequately prepared for college, and some researchers recommend that community colleges abolish late registration. …

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