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Rethinking College Student Retention


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Drawing on studies funded by the Lumina Foundation, the nation's largest private foundation focused solely on increasing Americans' success in higher education, the authors revise current theories of college student departure, including Tinto's, making the important distinction between residential and commuter colleges and universities, and thereby taking into account the role of the external environment and the characteristics of social communities in student departure and retention. A unique feature of the authors' approach is that they also consider the role that the various characteristics of different states play in degree completion and first-year persistence.

First-year college student retention and degree completion is a multi-layered, multi-dimensional problem, and the book's recommendations for state- and institutional-level policy and practice will help policy-makers and planners at all levels as well as anyone concerned with institutional retention rates—and helping students reach their maximum potential for success—understand the complexities of the issue and develop policies and initiatives to increase student persistence.

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Preface ix

Acknowledgments xv

About the Authors xvii

1. Introduction: Rethinking College Student Retention 1

Part I Recommendations for Policy and Practice 9

2. State Policy and Student Success 11

3. Recommendations for Institutional Policy and Practice 35

Part II Theoretical and Research Context 69

4. Explaining College Student Persistence 71

5. The Revision of Tinto’s Theory for Residential Colleges and Universities 83

6. A Theory of Student Persistence in Commuter Colleges and Universities 109

7. Design of the Studies 133

Part III Key Factors in Student Persistence in Residential and Commuter Colleges and Universities 161

8. Student Persistence in Residential Colleges and Universities 163

9. Student Persistence in Commuter Colleges and Universities 183

10. Conclusions and a Call for Further Research 205

Appendix A: Design of the Studies Tables 223

Appendix B: Technical Appendix for Statistical Procedures 243

Appendix C: Multivariate Analyses Results Tables 253

References 265

Index 285