Four-Year College Degree Completion and Texas Public School District Factors: A Geospatial Quantitative Analysis of Texas Data Using ArcGIS, GeoDa, and R Programming Language
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Even though there are significant improvements in college access and enrollment rates in the U.S., underrepresented students are still experiencing difficulties in terms of college degree completion. Student college readiness is one of the most important factors that correlate with timely college degree completion. Since PK-12 educational institutions play a crucial role in preparing students for college level work, data from Texas Education Agency (TEA) “Snapshot: School District Profiles” for academic years 2007-2008, 2008-2009, 2009-2010, and 2010-2011 were utilized in a geodatabase with data from Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) “Texas Higher Education Outcomes of Texas Public High School Graduates (Academic Years 2008, 2009, and 2010 combined) Degrees Earned Within Six Years of their High School Graduation”. This study demonstrated the capability and applicability of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) in educational research in general and higher education research in particular. The study utilized ArcGIS software, GeoDa software, and R programming language to answer critical research questions pertinent to college degree completion and made recommendations that are relevant to social justice, assessment and evaluation, policy and planning, and student performance in PK-16 education in the state of Texas. The study identified the geographically unique Texas school districts’ SES and college enrollment and four-year college degree completion trends’ spatial clusters. The study examined the relationships among the obtained spatial clusters, school districts’ educational locales, and the presence of institutions of higher education. Additionally, the study examined the effects of Texas school districts’ SES and academic factors on four-year college degree completion in 150% time in the state of Texas in a spatial context. Furthermore, the study utilized GIS suitability modeling to visualize Texas school districts’ performance based on the significant variables identified in the study. Findings indicated that the geographic presence or absence of institutions of higher education in relation to school districts’ locations and school districts’ locales could explain the higher education and four-year college degree outcome geographic clusters. Additionally, the study showed that lower SES’ clusters are associated with lower performance on four-year college degree completion. Moreover, the researcher in this study accounted for location in spatial autoregressive (SAR) modeling and found that spatial statistical models yield more accurate estimates than ordinary least square (OLS) models. The results of SAR analysis showed that, among the examined school districts’ variables, schools districts that are characterized with better performance on math, better performance on college admission testing, and better attendance rates also produce high school graduates who are better able to complete four-year college degrees in 150% percent time. School districts that are characterized with higher percentages of economically disadvantaged students and higher percentages of students in special education tend to produce high school graduates who are less likely to complete a four-year college degree ion 150% time. These findings are consistent with the findings of non-spatial literature. However, this study accounted for the effect of location on the statistical model and accounted for the effect of unobserved factors in the model. Finally, the study presented the idea of Geospatially Guided Higher Education Research (GGHER) as an implication that opens the door for critical future research and studies.