Longitudinal exploration of student retention, pre-entry attributes, and institutional experiences
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Retention is important to the wellbeing of both the student and the institution. Interactions in both the academic and social realm of the university aid in establishing a student’s sense of belonging (Tinto, 1993; Stage, 1989). If students depart prematurely, they not only lose opportunities for themselves but the university loses the opportunity of future tuition and the experiences of supporting students develop skills and abilities. Research shows student involvement within the institution is key to student persistence (Tinto, 1993; Pascarella & Ternezini, 1991). This study sought to describe the pre-entry attributes and institutional experiences had by students in the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources at Texas Tech University. The purposes of this study also included discovering the likelihood a student will or will not be retained by CASNR based on a student’s pre-entry attributes as well as the relationship between those pre-entry attributes and a student’s experiences had in college. Based on Tinto (1993) Longitudinal Model of Institutional Departure, there are four categories students experience at the institutional: academic performance, faculty and staff interaction, extracurricular activity and peer group interaction. Two instruments were utilized in this study, one at orientation to incoming freshmen in 2010 and 2011 concerning their pre-entry attributes and the second which focused on participant’s college experiences was given in 2014 to the same accessible population as the first. Results indicated pre-entry attributes assessed by the ENGAGE survey were a moderate predictor of academic performance. The study found there was a substantial relationship between the four institutional experiences and if a student found one favorable, they were more likely to find the others favorable as well. The study found the participants who stayed within CASNR had an overall more favorable experience in the four categories than those who chose to leave the College. The study found participants indicated they could have put forth greater effort academically and their GPA was not the full representation of their ability. Recommendations include changes within CASNR orientation to encourage academic effort and integration within the College as well as introductory level courses encouraging relationships and involvement.