Academic journal article Research & Teaching in Developmental Education

Reasons for Attending College: The Student Point of View

Academic journal article Research & Teaching in Developmental Education

Reasons for Attending College: The Student Point of View

Article excerpt


In our last two columns, developmental education faculty first debated and explored mandatory classroom attendance policies and followed up with an examination of student views on mandatory attendance policies. In this column, we continue the dialogue with a report of preliminary results of a research study that analyzed developmental education students' perspectives on reasons for attending college. The aim of this research is to begin developing theoretical frameworks within the applied discipline of developmental education to inform research and practice regarding current college students' attendance motivations.

Reasons for Attending College: The Student Point of View

The purpose of this column is to look at why students attend college. Its intention is to bring new clarity, with a contemporary lens, to the student voice through a qualitative research study of motivations and rationales for attending college. This column builds on previous research (Higbee & Dwinell, 1990) and prior columns by the authors regarding the purpose of higher education (Higbee & Dwinell, 1997) and perspectives on class attendance (Higbee & Fayon, 2006; Higbee, Schultz, & Goff, 2006). We chose to pursue this line of research because of the lack of research on student voice as well as the incongruence in viewpoints regarding the purpose of higher education among its stakeholders. For more than three decades a plethora of research has been conducted looking at why students choose particular schools (Higbee & Dwinell, 1990), reasons they drop out (Astin, 1975; Tinto, 1993), and factors related to retention (Astin, 1984, 1985; Chickering, 1969; Chickering & Reisser, 1993; Noel, Levitz, & Saluri, 1985). Yet little research exists on the student perspective on the question that is the focus of this article: Why go to college?

In a recent issue of Research and Teaching in Developmental Education, faculty members Jeanne Higbee and Annia Fayon (2006) debated the use of mandatory attendance policies in developmental education courses. Most recently, Higbee, Schultz, and Goff (2006) researched the student view of mandatory attendance policies and found that student responses centered on: (a) the logical conflict between reward and punishment, (b) defining attendance, (c) monetary value of attendance, (d) lack of student control, and (e) objection to authority. The purpose of this column is to provide holistic insight regarding why students initially choose to attend college.

In a review of the literature, Higbee and Dwinell (1997) claimed that research from a variety of theorists and researchers is grounded in the student perception that career preparation is the main reason for attending college (Astin, 1993; Astin, Dey, & Riggs, 1991). However, are these findings applicable to contemporary students, given that students' rationales, reasons, and motivations for attending college can be as varied and diverse as the students themselves? We believe that revisiting this issue and having a more recent and possibly better understanding of student perspectives as provided by the students themselves can prove beneficial for many stakeholders, including high school counselors, secondary and postsecondary faculty, parents, college admissions officers, student affairs professionals, and students.

Why Attend College?

According to Gardner, Jewler, and Barefoot (2007), the following are some of the many advantages to attending college. College students will:

Know more, have more intellectual interests, be more tolerant of others, and continue to learn throughout life.

Have greater self-esteem and self-confidence, which will help [them] realize how [they] might make a difference in the world.

Be more flexible in [their] views, more future oriented, more willing to appreciate differences of opinion, more interested in political and public affairs, and less prone to criminal activity. …

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