First-year structured advising programs and their impact on community college student retention

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2018-08

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Abstract

Academic advising is generally considered to improve student retention. Intrusive advising engages students early and intervenes when students face difficulties that may become barriers to their success. It keeps them motivated to stay on an academic track to completion. However, not many students utilize advising services because higher education institutions do not make academic advising mandatory. As a result, many students accumulate credits that may not necessarily align with their degree path and, thus, add time to program completion. Limited research exists that specifically focused on the role mandatory academic advising plays in the success of first-time community college students. This study is an examination of the effect of all variables, age, gender, ethnicity, GPA, student advising on term-to-term student retention for students who participated in a first-year advising program (FYAP). This study attempts to inform practitioners of the possible effects of mandatory intrusive advising on students who participate in an FYAP. The researcher applied a theoretical framework related to intrusive advising and student retention.
A quantitative, non-experimental, ex-post facto design was used to answer four research questions designed for an investigation of the outcomes of first-time in community college students participating in an FYAP. The study was conducted at a large, multi-campus, community college located in Texas. The researcher utilized historical data obtained through the college’s Office of Institutional Research. The researcher applied multiple statistical methods including descriptive statistics, chi-square, point-biserial correlation analysis of variance, and binary logistic regression analyses to examine the data and discuss the results. The findings of this study revealed that student gender and ethnicity were significantly associated with student retention when other variables were not controlled. More females remained in college than males. Regarding relative percentages, Asians had the highest retention rate, followed by “Other” ethnicities, Hispanics, Whites, and Blacks. Additionally, the relationship between student advising visit and retention was statistically significant. Students who attended two or more advising sessions were retained at a higher rate than those who attended only one or no advising sessions. In determining which variables collectively predict student retention, GPA contributed the most to the model, followed by the number of advising visits, ethnicity, and lastly, age. Gender was not a significant predictor of student retention when controlling for GPA, the number of advising visits, ethnicity, and age. The findings of this study led to several implications. First, student participation in an FYAP is important for minority students, specifically, Black, Latino, and Other students. Minority students who participated in the program persisted at a higher rate. Second, the negative correlation between student age and student retention and between student age and GPA implies that extra support and flexibility may be a key to retaining older students at a higher rate. The third implication is based on the finding that advising visits were one of the strong predictors of student retention. Therefore, advising programs should be carefully crafted and assessed. Finally, the last implication of this study was derived from the finding that the GPA is the strongest predictor of retention. It implies that the importance of maintaining GPA should be emphasized from the start.
The following recommendations for higher education practice are made based on the implications of this study: First, community colleges should utilize an intrusive advising approach to advise their students. Second, older students have several demands on their schedule. In order for them to stay in college and perform well, their needs must be evaluated, and they must be supported by wraparound services. By providing for the needs of older students, community colleges might achieve a higher retention. Third, advisors should be assigned to all students from the start of their academic career until they finish. The last recommendation was based on the finding that GPA is the biggest predictor of student retention. A strong academic start leads to higher motivation levels that encourage students to stay and complete. Since community colleges are focused on retention and completion, this finding will allow them to treat specific age group needs separately. The researcher offers several recommendations for future research. First, this study should be replicated with different samples of FYAPs to determine if the results are generalizable. Second, there is a need to study how the FYAP is related to the completion of academic program and degree attainment. Third, a study should be conducted to see how the student advising visits are related to student GPA and student academic status. Finally, a qualitative study of students’ perceptions of who participated in the FYAP could greatly add value to the advising practice.

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Academic advising

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