Academic journal article Journal of Developmental Education

Prefreshman Summer Programs' Impact on Student Achievement and Retention

Academic journal article Journal of Developmental Education

Prefreshman Summer Programs' Impact on Student Achievement and Retention

Article excerpt

Differences [of prefreshman summer program characteristics] can affect the ultimate success or failure of program participants.

The opening of college doors in the 1960s and 1970s resulted in a large number of academically unprepared students entering college. Many of them enrolled in developmental courses to acquire the skills necessary to matriculate into the regular curriculum. In spite of remedial course offerings, many students failed to complete a degree, resulting in alarmingly high attrition rates. In an effort to retain more students who might eventually earn degrees, colleges and universities expanded services and programs to improve the success of students, particularly those from historically underrepresented groups (Kluepfel & Roberts, 1994; Maxwell, 1997; Roueche, Baker, & Roueche, 1984; Roueche & CIaA, 1981; Van, 1992).

In the 1990s serious efforts were made to eliminate remedial coursework from 4-year colleges and universities in many states (Damashek, 1999). In response, many institutions implemented a variety of programs to promote the academic success and retention of at-risk students. Miller (1990) suggested that early pervasive attention and encouragement to students with developmental needs was necessary for their success.

Prefreshman summer programs, which originated in the mid 1970s, provide an aggressive, proactive approach to meet the academic and social needs of at-risk students (Levin &r Levin, 1991). These programs offer remedial coursework during the summer prior to the freshman year, to prepare at-risk students for college, and to reduce the need for offering so many remedial courses.

Prefreshman summer programs are designed to enable students to get a head start on building academic skills, becoming acquainted with college resources and expectations, developing the structure and discipline needed in order to meet these expectations, and forming an attachment to the institution. Characteristics of prefreshman summer programs vary considerably, and Kluepfel (1994) and Lauridsen and Meyers (1982) have contended that these differences can affect the ultimate success or failure of program participants.

Although the popularity of prefreshman summer programs continues to rise, research studies examining their effectiveness are not common (Santa Rita & Bacote, 1997). Prefreshman summer programs occur at a critical time in students' livesprior to entry into the institution, when students make the transition into the social and intellectual life of the institution-when institutions could be effective in preventing student departure (Tinto, 1987). Unfortunately, little research exists on prefreshman summer program characteristics in general, and no one has attempted to identify those characteristics that have the most impact on student achievement and retention. Shere (1993) recommended that researchers should focus on those program elements that most effectively assist students' survival on campus. The purpose of this study is to determine the effect of selected prefreshman summer program characteristics on student achievement and retention.

Theoretical Framework and Hypotheses

This study is based on Tinto's model of institutional departure (1975, 1986, 1987) and Pascarella's causal model (1985). According to Tinto, college is a social system with its own values and social structures, and insufficient social interactions with others in the college and incongruency with the value patterns of the college affect retention. Lack of integration into the college presumably leads to low commitment and increases the probability that students will leave college.

Working from Tinto's model, Pascarella (1985) has suggested a model for assessing the effects of differential college environments on student learning and cognitive development. He theorizes that learning and cognitive development are directly and indirectly influenced by student background/precollege traits, structural/organizational characteristics of institutions, institutional environment, and quality of student efforts. …

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