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A study of persistence and academic performance of students who completed the Colorado community college general education core transfer program

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A study of persistence and academic performance of students who completed the Colorado community college general education core transfer program
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Dosumu, Samuel Abayomi
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Community colleges -- Curricula -- Colorado ( lcsh )
Community college students -- Colorado ( lcsh )
College attendance -- Colorado ( lcsh )
Transfer students -- Colorado ( lcsh )
College attendance ( fast )
Community college students ( fast )
Community colleges -- Curricula ( fast )
Transfer students ( fast )
Colorado ( fast )
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theses ( marcgt )
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Includes bibliographical references (leaves 180-187).
Statement of Responsibility:
by Samuel Abayomi Dosumu.

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Full Text
A STUDY OF PERSISTENCE AND ACADEMIC PERFORMANCE OF
STUDENTS WHO COMPLETED THE COLORADO COMMUNITY
COLLEGE GENERAL EDUCATION CORE TRANSFER PROGRAM
by
Samuel Abayomi Dosumu
B.S., Xavier University, 1982
M.B.A., Regis University, 1990
A thesis submitted to the
University of Colorado at Denver
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Doctor of Philosophy degree
Educational Leadership and Innovation
1998


1998 by Samuel Abayomi Dosumu
All rights reserved


This thesis for the Doctor of Philosophy
degree by
Samuel Abayomi Dosumu
Dr. Richard Voorhees
Dr. Byron McClenney
Date


Dosumu, Samuel Abayomi (Ph.D., Educational Leadership and
Innovation)
A Study of the Academic Performance at Four Year Institutions of
Colorado Community College General Education Core Transfer
Program Students
Thesis directed by Dr. Rodney Muth
ABSTRACT
This study examines the persistence to baccalaureate degree
attainment of Colorado community college students who completed
general education core curriculum courses and transferred to a
Colorado public four-year institution. The general education core
curriculum, known as the CORE, was established in 1988 with the
intent to ease the transition of students from the community college
to Colorado four-year colleges and universities. A student who
completes the CORE curriculum with a minimum of 33 credits is
identified as a core completer. On transfer, core completers should
have waived by the receiving institution the lower-division general
education requirements.
Tinto's Model of Institutional Departure and Bean and
Metzner's Model of Nontraditional Student serve as the framework for
xv


the study. Both models state that academic and social integration are
factors that influence student persistence in higher education; a
student who integrates academically and socially with the institution
tends to persist to goal attainment. Students who persist to goal
commitment perform academically better than students who do not
persist.
The population used for this study was first-time, full-time
students who enrolled at any of the fifteen community colleges in
Colorado in fall 1989, 1990, and 1991. Data were collected from the
Colorado Commission on Higher Education Student-Unit Record Data
System and were matched with the Colorado Community College and
Occupational Education System Student Information System
database to identify students who completed the CORE. A total of
15,475 students comprised the initial cohort.
The independent variables are age, ethnicity, gender, CORE
completion, time-to-degree, transfer rates, community college, and
four-year institution cumulative grade point averages. The dependent
variable was baccalaureate degree completion. The main research
question asks if any differences exist in the persistence and academic
v


performance of completers and non-completers, and if the differences
are statistically significant.
The study found that: (a) CORE completers were more likely to
persist to complete the baccalaureate degree, (b) CORE completers
earned higher GPAs than students who did not, and (c) CORE
completers earned the baccalaureate degree in less time than non-
completers. Overall, completion of the CORE curriculum was
positively associated with student success at both the community
college and 4-year institutions.
This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidates
VI
l


DEDICATION
This doctoral study is dedicated to these important people in my
life: my wife, Alesia, whose love, encouragement, support, concern for
my success, and patience are unequaled; my children, Joshua and
Christyna, for their unconditional love and understanding; my
parents, Prince Emmanuel and Elizabeth (Nigeria), for their love,
support, and constant prayers for my success; my sister, Adenike
(U.K.), and my brother, Gbadebo (Nigeria), whose encouragement and
support have made it possible.
vu


ACKNOWLEDGEMENT
It is with sincere appreciation that I acknowledge the people
who have contributed significantly to this venture. It was only with
their assistance and support that this undertaking was possible. I
want to express a big THANK YOU to:
Dr. Rodney Muth, my committee chairman who provided the
leadership and direction necessary to get this study completed.
Professor Michael Murphy who steered me along earlier on in
the study and who provided the initial leadership and
encouragement for this study.
Dr. Nancy Sanders, and Dr. Byron McClenney who willingly
gave of their time to serve on the committee.
Dr. Richard "Rick" Vooorhees, a close personal friend, a
colleague, and a committee member whose expertise and
encouragement have been invaluable, without whom this study
could not have been as rewarding as it has turned out to be.
Ms. Patricia Riley in the Office of Institutional Research at the
Colorado Commission on Higher Education, for her assistance
with the data extraction.
vrn


Ms. Deying Zhou, the Research Analyst at CCCOES for her
assistance in the initial analysis of the data and serving as my
"research consultant" when I needed clarification.
The staff of the Community College Computer Services Office,
especially Ms. Marguarite Hudak, Gary Hubbard, Jerry Lillard
for their very considerable work on data extraction.
Dr. Greg Smith at the Community College of Denver, for his
support, encouragement, and taking the time to help clarify
data and research questions.
I


CONTENTS
Tables................................................xiv
CHAPTER
1. A HISTORY OF COMMUNITY COLLEGES AND THE
GENERAL EDUCATION CURRICULUM.....................1
Community Colleges and Their Mission..........3
Role of General Education in the Community College
Curriculum...................................6
Models of General Education..............8
General Education Requirements...........10
Transfer Trends in Community Colleges........12
Transfer Models..........................14
The Colorado General Education Core Experience .... 16
Theoretical Framework........................17
Research Questions...........................22
Statement of the Problem.....................23
Purpose of the Study.........................24
Significance of Study........................26
Limitations..................................26
Organization of the Study....................27
x


2. MODELS OF INSTITUTIONAL ATTRITION
29
Conceptual Models of Student Persistence..........31
Tinto's Model of Institutional Departure....31
Bean and Metzner's Model of NonTraditional
Student Attrition...........................40
Factors Affecting Academic Experiences............47
Personal Factors Affecting Student
Persistence.................................49
Institutional Factors That Relate to Student
Persistence.................................60
The Interplay of Student and Institutional
Factors that Affect Persistence.............65
Performance at Transfer Institutions..............73
Conclusion........................................76
3. METHODOLOGY...........................................78
Research Questions................................79
Research Design...................................81
Subjects..........................................84
Data Sources and Data Collection..................87
Research Variables................................89
Data Analysis.....................................96
Summary...........................................98


4. FINDINGS..............................................100
Research Question One: Does The Performance
Of The Two Groups Differ Significantly
By Age...........................................102
Research Question Two: Does The Performance
Of The Two Groups Differ Significantly
By Gender........................................108
Research Question Three: Does The Performance
Of The Two Groups Differ Significantly
By Ethnicity.....................................Ill
Research Question Four: Does The Performance
Of The Two Groups Differ Significantly By Transfer
Rates To Four-Year Institutions..................117
Research Question Five: Does The Performance
Of The Two Groups Differ Significantly By Community
College (Pre-Transfer) Grade Point Average.......120
Research Question Six: Does The Performance
Of The Two Groups Differ Significantly By Four-Year
Institution (Post-Transfer) Grade Point Average.122
Research Question Seven: Does The Performance
Of The Two Groups Differ Significantly By
Completing The Baccalaureate Degree..............124
Research Question Eight: Does The Performance
Of The Two Groups Differ Significantly By
Time-To-Degree Of Baccalaureate Degree...........127
Summary...............................................128
5. SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS...............................130
Purpose..........................................132
xu


I
Methodology.....................................133
Findings........................................135
Discussion......................................141
Demographic Profile.........................143
Persistence at the Community College........146
Academic Performance and Persistence at the
Four-year Institution.......................149
Implications for Further Research...............153
Implications for Educational Practice...........155
Conclusion......................................161
APPENDIX
A. COLORADO COMMUNITY COLLEGE CORE TRANSFER
PROGRAM REQUIREMENTS..................164
B. POLICY ON ASSOCIATE DEGREES AND PROGRAM
DESIGNATIONS AND STANDARDS............167
C. CORE TRANSFER CONSORTIUM
PROGRAM BACKGROUND....................173
REFERENCES................................180
xiii
!


I
I
TABLES
Table
3.1 Distribution of First-time, Full-time
Students by Institution........................85
3.2 Demographic Distribution of Cohorts by Gender,
Ethnicity, and Age.............................86
3.3 Sources of Data and Relationships among
the Variables..................................91
3.4 Variables and Operational Definitions...........92
3.5 Predicted Relationships Among the Community
College Variables..............................94
3.6 Predicted Relationships Among the Post
Community College Variables....................94
4.1 Mean Age of Core Completers and
Non-Completers................................103
4.2 Summaries of Community College Grade Point
Average by Age................................105
4.3 Mean Age of Students Who Transferred and
Students Who Did Not Transfer.................106
4.4 Gender of Core Completers and
Non-Completers................................109
4.5 Mean Community College GPA by Gender...........109
4.6 Gender of Transfers and Non-Transfers..........110
XIV


4.7 Ethnicity of Core Completers and
Non-Completers...............................113
4.8 Community College Grade Point Average
by Ethnicity.................................114
4.9 Ethnicity of Students Who Transferred and
Students Who Did Not Transfer................116
4.10 Transfer Pattern of Core Completers and
Non-Completers...............................118
4.11 Mean Community College Grade Point Average
of Transfers and Non-Transfers...............119
4.12 Community College Grade Point Average of
Completers and Non-Completers................120
4.13 Mean Four Year Institution Grade Point Average
of Core Completers and Non-Completers........123
4.14 Frequencies of Core Completers and Non-
Completers Who Earned a Baccalaureate Degree.... 125
4.15 Mean Four Year Institution Grade Point Average
of All Students Who Earned a Baccalaureate
Degree.......................................126
4.16 Mean Number of Semesters to Baccalaureate
Degree Completers and Non-Completers.........128
xv


I
FIGURES
Figure
1.1 A Conceptual Model of Institutional Departure.......20
2.1 A Conceptual Model of Institutional Departure.......33
2.2 A Conceptual Model of Nontraditional
Student Attrition..................................41
5.1 Persistence by Age, Ethnicity and Gender...........138
5.2 Persistence by Transfer Rates......................138
5.3 Cumulative GPAs (2-year and 4-year)................139
5.4 Time to Baccalaureate Degree (after transfer)..... 139
5.5 Graduation Rates.................................. 140
5.6 Cumulative GPA of Baccalaureate
Degree Persisters.................................. 140
I
XVI


CHAPTER 1
A HISTORY OF COMMUNITY COLLEGES AND
THE GENERAL EDUCATION CURRICULUM
The pursuit of higher education can be considered one of the
most sought after goals in society today. To many, the completion of
a higher education degree such as a bachelors, masters, or doctoral
degree, can signify a major accomplishment and a vehicle for the
pursuing other social statuses. Higher education, defined as the
educational level beyond the first twelve years of schooling, holds an
abundance of promises, expectations, and obstacles. Astin (1993)
posits that attending college has a profound effect on ones life and
that the most important outcome of college attendance is economic.
Schooling can be perceived as a vehicle for upward mobility, the
completion of which enables the receiver to contribute to the economic
well being of the society in general, and the immediate community, in
particular.
To obtain the baccalaureate degree, a student can take one of
two paths: admission to a four-year institution or enrollment at a
I


community college and transfer to a four-year college or university.
Admission to a four-year institution enables a student to commence
her or his coursework and pursue a particular career path as defined
by the institution. The community college path presents students
with a number of options: (a) completion of the transfer associate
degree, (b) completion of courses in the students intended major, or
(c) completion of a prescribed general education curriculum.
Regardless of the option chosen, the next decision is whether or not to
transfer to a four-year institution to complete the requirements of a
baccalaureate degree.
This study examines the community college path to the
baccalaureate degree through the completion of a prescribed general
education curriculum. Since the inception of community colleges,
they have provided greater access for potential students, to
educational opportunities, as compared with other institutions of
higher education (Eaton, 1994). Community colleges can thus be
viewed as a viable path to higher education and perceived as playing a
vital role in assisting students in their pursuit of the baccalaureate
degree. This perception is due, in part, to the efficacy of general
education in the community college curriculum and the success of its
2


liberal arts and transfer offerings. The rest of this chapter provides a
description of the mission of community colleges, the role of general
education in community college curriculum, the transfer function of
community colleges, and the Colorado Core Curriculum Experience.
Community Colleges and Their Mission
Aptly labeled "democracy's college, community colleges have
sought to provide access to higher education for people who might not
otherwise attend college (Cohen & Brawer, 1987, p. 2). Community
colleges serve many purposes by being all things to all people. They
serve as a transfer institution where students can take the necessary
transfer courses and continue on to a four-year institution. They
serve as a training ground for a communitys workforce through
partnerships with businesses and other entities. They offer courses
for personal enrichment by providing continuing education credits
and non-credits to working adults. With such a broad set of
functions, community colleges are viewed as a viable means of
attaining higher education especially for under-prepared and minority
students.
3


The community college dates to the early years of the twentieth
century (Cohen 8b Brawer, 1996). These institutions arose from the
need to train workers to work in the nations industries and from the
drive for social equality by affording more people access to higher
education.
Bach year, approximately five million students attend American
community colleges. Between 1975 and 1995, the number of
students enrolled in community colleges rose from 3.9 million to 5.2
million, an increase of 86 percent. Each fall, 44 percent of America's
undergraduates, and 49 percent of all first-time freshmen attend
community colleges (American Association of Community Colleges
[AACC], 1997; King, 1994). In addition, it is estimated that 63
percent enroll part-time while 37 percent enroll full-time in
community colleges. Annually, community colleges confer more than
466,000 associate degrees and nearly 200,000 certificates (AACC,
1997).
Cohen and Brawer (1987) identified four major reasons why
students attend community colleges: (a) to prepare for transfer to a
four-year institution, (b) to gain training necessary to enter a new
occupation, (c) to gain skills necessary to remain current or advance
4


in a current occupation, and (d) to satisfy a personal interest.
Community colleges do whatever is necessary to provide students
with the facilities and services to ensure that they can achieve their
respective goals.
Each year, a significant number of first-time students intend to
transfer to a four-year institution and ultimately earn a bachelors
degree (AACC, 1997), but many of them do not attain this goal (King,
1994; Watkins, 1990). Watkins estimates that, although as many as
one-third of community college students plan to continue their
education at four-year institutions as transfer students, only 15 to 25
percent actually do transfer. Cohen (1992) defined transfer rate as
the percentage of community college students who actually transfer to
a four-year institution. According to the Center for the Study of
Community Colleges (CSCC), between 1984 and 1988 approximately
753,464 students who had no prior college experience (50 percent of
enrollees during those years) completed at least 12 credit units at a
college. From that number, 171,036 (22.7 percent) students
transferred to a four-year institution. In Colorado, the overall transfer
rate is 18.8 percent, using the CSCC transfer rate formula. The
actual proportion of students who complete a general education
5


curriculum and transfer with or without an associate degree is
unknown. Published reports on transfer patterns in the state have
primarily focused on students who have completed either a certificate
or an associate degree.
Role of General Education in the
Community College Curriculum
The role of general education in the community college
curriculum has been extensively documented as evidenced by myriad
studies on the subject. General education is central to the mission of
the community college (Cohen & Brawer, 1996; Eaton, 1994). It is
intended to provide students with fundamental communication,
critical thinking, and mathematical and problem solving skills which
will ultimately serve them in their future education and careers. It is
the curriculum requirement that gives the baccalaureate degree the
breadth a student needs to complement the depth of their
specialization. Despite its apparent simplicity and common currency,
the phrase "general education" remains ambiguous, and its various
interpreters each propose different standards of practice and
directions for reform (Gaff, 1983).
Cohen 8s Brawer (1996) defined general education as:
6


The process of developing a framework on which to place
knowledge stemming from various courses, of learning to think
critically, develop values, understand traditions, respect diverse
cultures and opinions, and most important, put that knowledge
to use . (I)t is holistic, not specialized; integrative, not
specialist. . (T)he liberal arts are education as; general
education is education for [emphasis added], (p. 336)
Koltai (1982) provides another view of general education as
encompassing, but not limited to, the generic skills of clear and
critical thought, coherent written and spoken expression, and the
ability to deal effectively with quantitative issues" (p. 100).
Johnson (1953), as cited in Smith & Clements (1984), in a
study of general education in California junior colleges, defined
general education as:
that part of education which encompasses the common
knowledge, skills, and attitudes needed by each individual to be
effective as a person and a citizen. [It] is complementary to, but
different in emphasis and approach from professional training
or scholarship in a particular field of study, (p. 25)
From this sample of definitions, it can be surmised that the
intent of general education is to provide students with a broadly
based, integrated, and unified body of knowledge. General education
is conceptualized as knowledge every student should know and not
specific to an academic field (Lorenzo, 1994). Lorenzo further states
that it is comprehensive enough to reflect the mission and goals of the
7


institution, and selective enough that the student has a wide variety
of choices by providing breadth to her or his academic pursuit.
Accrediting agencies, such as the North Central Association of
Schools and Colleges (NCA), require that undergraduate degree
programs include a coherent general education requirement
consistent with the institutions mission and designed to ensure
breadth of knowledge and to promote intellectual inquiry. How each
institution presents general education to its students is based on that
institutions mission and educational philosophy (Smith & Clements,
1984). Further, the NCA general institutional requirements stipulate
that general education be a component of undergraduate degree
programs as well as certificate and diploma programs of two or more
academic years in length.
Models of General Education
Three models of general education exist, namely, core,
distribution and interdisciplinary (Levine 85 Weingart, 1973; Smith &
Clements, 1984). The core or prescribed approach consists of a group
of courses that all students are expected to study and it is designed
around a specific discipline or academic foundation. The objective of
8


the core approach is to focus student learning around a culture,
philosophy, or social concept to which the institution subscribes.
This approach is more notable for the relationship between the select
courses than the coherence of their contents; in theory, this approach
presents an impression of a series of courses but their contents are
not interconnected.
The distribution approach requires a certain number of courses
in several broad areas. These requirements were either of a collection
of courses in which students were free to choose any course, or a
prescribed distribution, in which the institution determines most of
the requirements with few electives (Boyer & Levine, 1981). Most
institutions that subscribe to the distribution approach use the
smorgasbord format (Boyer 8b Levine; Cohen, 1988; Smith 8s
Clements, 1984). The flaw in this approach is that the collection of
courses in each distribution area may be completely unrelated. The
objective is to provide students with a list of courses, spread over
defined distribution areas from which they can choose no more than a
certain number of courses to meet their requirements. The Colorado
community college CORE Transfer Program is an example of the
9


distribution approach, because it provides students with a wide
selection of courses within distribution areas (see Appendix A).
The interdisciplinary approach is less widespread and it
involves the selection of one or two courses in each broad disciplinary
category (Smith 8b Clements, 1984). In this approach, college faculty
creates interdisciplinary courses that combine key aspects of each
discipline within the institution. The interdisciplinary approach is
typically represented by a capstone course that is taken at the end of
a baccalaureate program, thus making this approach more acceptable
to four-year colleges.
General Education Requirements
The associate degrees that are intended for transfer contain a
substantial amount of general education courses usually ranging from
30 to 45 credits. The Associate of Arts (AA) degree is designed for
transfer into a baccalaureate degree program, with junior standing, in
the arts, humanities, social or behavioral sciences, or one of the
professional fields with such disciplines as its base. The Associate of
Science (AS) degree is designed for transfer into a baccalaureate
degree program, with junior standing, in one of the mathematical,
10


biological, physical sciences, or one of the professional fields with
such disciplines as its base. The Associate of General Studies (AGS)
is designed for students who want to complete a broad program of
both career and transfer courses, without the constraint of
specialization.
Cohen & Ignash (1993), in a Center for the Study of Community
Colleges study of transfer rates, found that the "median student"
transfers after completing approximately thirty units. Brinkman
(1994) identified three influences that general education requirements
have had on the associate's degree: (a) academic respectability, (b)
ease of transfer, and (c) accreditation requirements. Academic
respectability meant colleges wanted their curricula to appear similar
to the curricula of other colleges to which the student may eventually
want to transfer. Ease of transfer relates to the total acceptance of
community/junior college courses as students enroll to attain their
educational goals. Accrediting agencies encourage homogeneity of
general education requirements across the community college
spectrum through established standards.
In summary, the rhetoric of general education constituting the
basis for the "liberated person" and its place in the community college
n


will continue to be questioned and debated. It is difficult to advocate
general education to a typical community college student when only
one in eight students complete a prescribed program, and three in
four students attend part time (Cohen & Brawer, 1996). With
substantial efforts going into general education reform, it is important
to track and report on the academic performance of students who
transferred after completing only general education courses. General
education can be summarized to be: (a) common learning essential to
all individuals, regardless of career goals; (b) non-specific to a
particular major or specialization; (c) integrated with the rest of the
institutions curriculum; and (d) more focused on concepts than facts.
Transfer Trends in Community Colleges
Transfer is defined as the process of transition from one
educational level to another. The transfer function is one of the many
missions of community colleges (Cohen, 1993; Cohen & Brawer, 1996;
Lee & Jones, 1992; National Effective Transfer Consortium [NETC],
1990). Transfer is a complex activity that involves faculty,
administrators, participating institutions, and state regulations
(Eaton, 1997), which ultimately leads to earning a bachelors degree.
12


For many students, particularly minority students, transferring to a
four-year institution from a community college is a viable path to the
baccalaureate degree. The transfer function has created an avenue
for under-prepared students to take advantage of the community
college environmentsmaller class sizes, part-time attendance,
commuter institutions, lower tuitionto enroll in college courses.
These courses are usually taught at the freshman and sophomore
level at a four-year college, and can be transferred to a four-year
college or university.
The strength of the community college as a transfer curriculum
provider rests on two elements: (a) its collegiate curriculum organized
around the liberal arts, culminating in the associates degree; and (b)
the students tendencies to begin collegiate studies at the college and
transfer to a senior institution (Cohen 8b Brawer, 1987, p. 1). Of the
over five million students enrolled in community colleges each year
(AACC, 1997), one in four (25 percent) in 1989-1990 indicated that
they were working towards a bachelor's degree. Over 45 percent of all
first-time college entrants attended more than one institution within
five years of starting college. The number of students indicating
transfer as an educational goal is slowly increasing. Of the number of
13


students who transfer annually, more than 63 percent took longer
than one year before entering university and 15 percent entered a
four-year institution after three years (AACC, 1997).
Transfer Models
Laanan 85 Sanchez (1996) identify various dimensions of
transfer activities, three of which are more prevalent: horizontal,
reverse, and vertical transfers. Horizontal transfer refers to a student
who transfers within the same educational level, for instance, from
one community college to another or from one four-year college to
another. Reverse transfer refers to a student who initially started at a
four-year institution and later enrolls at a community college as an
undergraduate student. Vertical transfer refers to the student who
transfers from one educational level to another, typically from a two-
year institution to a four-year institution. Eleven percent of students
who started at a two-year institution were reverse transfers.
Occasionally, a student can transfer to many two-year institutions,
and complete their education at a four-year institution, a pattern
known as "multiple transfer" (Laanan & Sanchez, 1996).
14


In Colorado, the transfer function is one that receives
considerable attention at the legislative level. The Colorado
Commission on Higher Education (CCHE) also pays close attention to
students appeals if credits are lost due to transfer. From summer
1990 to spring 1995, over 26,100 community college students
graduated with either a certificate or an associates degree (CCCOES,
1997). During the same period, 7,287 (28 percent) students
graduated with the AA, AS, or AGS degree, with transfer students
accounting for 2,624 (10 percent) of the graduates.
In conclusion, the role of the community colleges in effective
transfer of students to four-year institutions is an important one. The
importance of this function cannot be overlooked especially when one
in five (20 percent) students will transfer to a four-year institution,
according to the Center for the Study of Community Colleges. The
effectiveness of the transfer function is directly related to the
efficiency of the transfer contents, in terms of general education
requirements, course equivalencies and the completion of the AA
degree.
15


The Colorado General Education Core Experience
In 1988, the State Board of Community Colleges and
Occupational Education (SBCCOE) implemented board policy BP 9-40
(see Appendix B) to define the guideline for a general education core
curriculum that would allow a student to transfer up to 34 credits of
general education courses to a public four-year institution (CCCOES,
1990). The goal of the Colorado Community College Core Transfer
Program (CORE) was to ease the transfer of students from the states
community and junior colleges to public four-year colleges and
universities, and it represents the lower-division general education
requirements of most public four-year institutions in Colorado.
Distributed over the five areas of English and Communications,
Mathematics, Natural Science, Social and Behavioral Sciences, and
Humanities, the CORE is a subset of general education courses from
which a student can complete 33-34 credits to meet the minimum
general education requirements of the AA, AS, and the AGS degrees.
According to the CORE policy, the general education core curriculum
courses should be accepted at the receiving senior institution. Total
acceptance of courses at the four-year institution, however, has been
16


at the discretion of the student's major department and other
institutional transfer requirements.
The process of creating the CORE started when the Colorado
General Assembly passed H.B. 1187 in May 1985, mandating the
Colorado Commission on Higher Education [CCHE] to:
establish, after consultation with the (state) educational
governing boards of institutions, and enforce student transfer
agreements between two-year and four-year institutions, and
among four-year institutions. (Colorado Revised Statutes, Vol.
9, 1988, p. 375)
Subsequently, H.B. 1237, which was signed into law in 1986,
intensified the impact of H.B. 1187. It affirmed the duties of the State
Board of Community Colleges and Occupational Education
(SBCCOES):
To develop and implement, in coordination with four-year
institutions and under the direction of the Colorado
Commission on Higher Education, a core transfer program for
students wishing to obtain a baccalaureate degree after
transferring out of the community college system into a four
year institution, which program shall be implemented within
the state system by September 15, 1987. (Colorado Revised
Statutes, Vol. 9, 1988, p. 598)
Theoretical Framework
Kerlinger (1986) defines theory as "the set of interrelated
constructs, definitions, and propositions that present a systematic
17


view of phenomena by specifying relationships among variables, with
the purpose of explaining and predicting the phenomena" (p. 9). The
theoretical framework for this study is adapted from models of
student persistence as defined by Tinto (1975, 1987) which seeks to
explain why students leave college, and Bean & Metzners (1985)
theory of non-traditional undergraduate students attrition, which
examines the concept of attrition of non-traditional students. For this
study, persistence is defined as continued enrollment at a four-year
institution leading toward the completion of a baccalaureate degree.
From Tintos model has come other models such as the Astin (1993)
Input-Environment-Output (I-E-O) model, which examines key factors
in student retention, and the Pascarella and Terenzini (1991) model of
college persistence, which examines key factors that influence
students to stay in college.
Tintos model has guided much of the persistence research for
community and junior colleges, such as retention and attrition
18


Table 1.1 Variables in this study and their Potential Associations to the Tinto Model
Present Study Tinto Model Components
Demographic variables (age, race, gender) Pre-entry attributes
Cumulative GPA at community college and four-year institution Academic Integration
CORE completion Goal commitment
Baccalaureate completion Ultimate dependent variable, analogous to persistence
(Brawer, 1996; Conklin, 1995; McGivney, 1996; Okun, Benin, &
Brandt-Williams, 1996; Price, 1993; Voorhees, 1987); student
academic performance at four-year institutions (Piland, 1985); time-
to-degree (Glass & Bunn, 1998; Maryland State Higher Education
Commission, 1996); transfer students (Johnson, 1987);
underprepared students (Grimes, 1997); student goals and outcomes
(Brawer, 1988); and transfer shock (Cedja, 1997). These studies
concluded that non-
traditional students do persist to earn the bachelors degree, when
compared to students who started at the university (native students).
Tintos (1975, 1987) model of institutional departure is depicted
in Figure 1.1, and is used as the primary basis for this study. A
19


PRE-ENTRY GOALS &
ATTRIBUTES COMMITMENTS (T,)
INSTITUTIONAL
EXPERIENCES
PERSONAL/
NORMATIVE
INTEGRATION
GOAL8& OUTCOME
COMMITMENTS (Tj)
SOCIAL SYSTEM
TIME (T) --------------------
Figure 1.1: A Conceptual Model of Institutional Departure (Tinto, 1987).


secondary model, the Bean and Metzner (1985) model, is explained
fully in Chapter Two as a supporting model to explain persistence and
performance of community college students. Table 1.1 displays the
parallels between this study and Tinto's model components. Tinto's
model components identified pre-entry attributes, initial goals and
commitments, institutional experiences, personal and normative
integration, and student outcome as the key entities. The following
variables are analyzed showing their placement in Tintos model: (a)
demographic characteristics of age, ethnicity, and gender (pre-entry);
(b) completion of Core curriculum (initial goal commitment); (c)
cumulative GPA at the community college and four-year institutions
(institutional experiences); (d) transfer of students from the
community college to the four-year institution (goal and commitment);
and (e) baccalaureate degree completion, which is the ultimate
dependent variable of this study, analogous to persistence in Tintos
model. The social integration and student-faculty variables of the
Tinto model will not be analyzed because data about these factors
were not collected. Further, the social integration component at the
community college is difficult to measure since most community
colleges, and those involved in this study, are commuter institutions.
21


Tintos model has been used as the basis for numerous studies
on student persistence (Cabrera, Nora, 8s Castaneda, 1993); the
model is also used to access academic performance (Cejda, Rewey 8s
Kaylor, 1998). This study examines persistence, academic
performance, community college and four-year college grade point
averages, and transfer rates.
Research Questions
The main research question of the study asked Did students
who complete the Colorado Community college general education core
transfer program (CORE) and students who do not complete the
CORE differ significantly in their academic performance and their
persistence to attainment of the baccalaureate degree? The
subsidiary research questions focus on the extent and manner in
which students who completed the Core can be differentiated from
those who did not complete the Core over the time frame of the study:
1. Does the performance of the two groups differ
significantly by age (pre-entry attributes)?
2. Does the performance of the two groups differ
significantly by gender (pre-entry attributes)?
3. Does the performance of the two groups differ
significantly by ethnicity (pre-entry attributes)?
22


4. Does the performance of the two groups differ
significantly by transfer rates to four-year institutions
(persistence)?
5. Does the performance of the two groups differ
significantly by community college GPA (academic
integration)?
6. Does the performance of the two groups differ
significantly by four-year institution GPA (academic
integration)?
7. Does the performance of the two groups differ
significantly by completing the baccalaureate degree (goal
attainment)?
8. Does the performance of the two groups differ
significantly by time-to-degree of baccalaureate degree
(persistence)?
Statement of the Problem
The Colorado community college Core Transfer Program was
intended to ease the transfer of students from public two-year
community colleges to public four-year colleges and universities, and,
if completed, can result in a student's lower-division general
education requirements waived, up to 34 credits. Each year, students
either complete the CORE and receive the CORE stamp or take a few
CORE courses and transfer. This study examines how the completion
23


or non-completion of the Core curriculum affects a students
attainment of the baccalaureate degree. Completion of the CORE
program is in the best interest of the student, because if all credits are
applied in the appropriate degree requirements, it can reduce the
length of time needed to complete the baccalaureate degree. This
study is based on the premise that, if a student completes the CORE
the student will more likely persist to complete the baccalaureate
degree; conversely, students who do not complete the CORE take
longer to complete the baccalaureate degree.
Purpose of the Study
The purpose of this study is twofold. First, the purpose is to
assess if the persistence pattern is differentiated between students
who complete the Core and students who do not complete the Core.
Second, the purpose is to understand the academic performance of
those students who persisted to public four-year colleges and
universities in Colorado.
In Colorado, inconsistent course acceptance constitutes a big
problem for the student transferring from a community college to a
four-year institution, because courses that the student thinks will
24


count towards the degree or major requirement may not be accepted
by the four-year institution. As a result, students do not complete the
bachelor's degree in a reasonable time and may ultimately drop from
the institution (attrition).
This study seeks to add to the research on community college
students who transfer to four-year institutions, as it pertains to those
who completed a prescribed general education curriculum as part of
the associate's degree requirement. Studies on academic performance
at four-year institutions of community college students have focused
attention on the completion of the associate degree (Cejda, Rewey, &
Kaylor, 1998; Dworkin, 1996; Johnson, 1987; Piland, 1995). No
research on the transfer behavior of students who took general
education courses exists. The findings from this study will: (a)
provide useful information for states such as Illinois, Iowa, and
Alabama that are considering similar general education initiatives; (b)
shed light on the experience of a state that has gone through a similar
initiative and provide understanding of the completion pattern; and (c)
provide information to assist state education policy makers in
assessing the effect that the CORE program on bachelors degree
completion.
25


Significance of Study
This study also has a policy implication in that the CORE came
about as a result of a legislative mandate. The mandate was initiated
as a result of state legislators concerns over the length of time it took
students to complete a baccalaureate degree after attending a
community college. The findings from this study will provide
information to assist state educational policy makers in assessing the
relationship between the CORE program and baccalaureate
attainment. In addition, this study will provide information to assess
if the intent of the mandate is metif students transfer successfully
after completing Core courses.
Limitations
For the purpose of this study, the following limitations are
identified:
1. Although data will be collected on the fifteen community
colleges in the state, Core completion data will be compiled on
students who attend the eleven CCCOES colleges, thus
excluding four community colleges that are considered local
26


district colleges. This is because the CCCOES database is
consistent across institutions; the local district databases are
neither consistent nor accessible.
2. Students will not be classified or stratified by degrees; thus the
cohort will consist of all students regardless of the associate
degree they ultimately complete. This will include students who
completed the Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree, in
addition to transfer-bound students. Although the AAS degree
is an occupational degree, students have been known to
complete the AAS degree as well as the AA degree.
3. The study will not track multi-transfer students, those who
attended more than one community college prior to transferring
to a four-year institution or those attending more than one four-
year institution concurrently.
Organization of the Study
The remaining chapters report the details of the study and the
findings. Chapter Two presents a review of literature that examines
the practice of general education in the community college
curriculum, and the theoretical framework of Tintos (1975, 1987)
27


Model of Institutional Departure. The chapter concludes with a
presentation of current persistence research in community colleges.
Chapter Three describes the research methodology used in the
study. The subjects studied and the data collection procedures are
described, followed by an explanation of the statistical techniques
used to test the between-group and within-group statistics.
Chapter Four presents the findings from the data. The chapter
concludes with a discussion of the findings. In Chapter Five, the
implications of the findings are discussed and recommendations for
practice and further research are presented.
28


CHAPTER 2
MODELS OF INSTITUTIONAL ATTRITION
Students attend community colleges for many reasons: to
complete a degree or program leading to transfer to a four-year
institution, to upgrade their existing skills with new ones to
improve employability, to learn new skills for the purpose of
reentering the job market, or for personal enrichment. Regardless
of the reason, students portray a level of persistence in their
desired goal. Most students stay in college until a certain
milestone is met which can include transferring to another
institution to continue with the ultimate goal.
This chapter is divided into three parts. The first part
discusses the theories and models that have been developed to
explain persistence behavior, which is the dependent variable and
is referred to in the research questions. The second part exposes
research that has been conducted on the variables identified in the
models and the categories of variables presented by Tinto (1975),
29


and Bean 85 Metzner (1985). The first two parts are aligned with
the first part of the study. The third part of this review of research
examines factors that influence academic performance at four-year
institutions and focuses on the second part of the study.
The variables identified by Tinto as having effect on
persistence are also variables that affect performance of students
in higher education. A discussion of persistence is not complete
without an evaluation of academic performance; thus, the
independent variables are used both in persistence and
measurement of academic performance. From this study's
perspective, student success will be measured by the completion of
a program or degree; anything short of that goal is considered
attrition. Students who enroll in general education courses for the
purpose of transferring to a four-year institution can either
complete the entire general education core transfer curriculum or
part of it.
This review of literature has been divided into the following
sections: (a) conceptual models of student experiences, (b) factors
affecting academic experiences, and (c) performance at four-year
institutions.
30


Conceptual Models of Student Persistence
This section examines two major concepts in student
persistence. First is Tintos (1975, 1987) Model of Institutional
Departure which presents a continuum of factors that have been
determined to affect students intention of staying in or departing
from college. Second is Bean & Metzners (1985) Model of Non-
Traditional Students which examines the attrition characteristics
of students who attend commuter institutions, and in particular,
community college students.
Tintos Model of Institutional Departure
Tinto (1987) drew initially on the work of early 20th century
Dutch anthropologist Arnold Van Gennep, who posited a
developmental theory on how individuals moved from one stage in
life to the next. Another influence on Tintos work was that of Emil
Durkheim and his study of suicide. These earlier theories formed
the bases for Tintos (1975, 1987) work on what causes students to
drop out of college.
31


Numerous researchers such as Pascarella 8s Terenzini
(1991), Johnson (1987), and Bean (1981), who have studied the
persistence of community college students at the four-year
institutions, have based their theories on Tintos (1975, 1987)
Model of Institutional Departure. Tintos work is heavily
referrenced by most higher education researchers has targeted
students in residential institutions and mostly four-year
institutions. Tintos Model of Institutional Departure states that a
student will persist to stay in college to completion (persistence) if
that student is fully integrated into the social and academic strata
of the college (see Figure 2.1).
Tintos model outlines several factors related to dropping out
of college. The model depicts a continuum of factors that interface
with one another to form a network of courses of college attrition.
It explains how interactions among different individuals within the
academic and social systems of the institution lead students of
different characteristics to withdraw prior to degree completion (p.
113). Tintos model does not propose a sequence of events a
student should follow; rather, it exposes the factors that ultimately
contribute to attrition from college. It is a longitudinal process of
32


PRE-ENTRY GOALS &
ATTRIBUTES COMMITMENTS (T,)
INSTITUTIONAL
EXPERIENCES
PERSONAL/
NORMATIVE
INTEGRATION
GOALS &
COMMITMENTS (Ti)
SOCIAL SYSTEM
TIME (T).

OUTCOME
DEPARTURE
DECISION
Figure 2.1: A Conceptual Model of Institutional Departure (Tinto, 1987).


departure as it occurs within the institution of higher education.
The model was first introduced in 1975 and was updated in 1987.
Tintos model is segmented into six parts: (a) pre-entry
attributes, (b) goals and commitments (initial), (c) institutional
experiences, (d) academic and social integration, (e) goals and
commitment (final), and (f) outcome. Tinto based his attrition
studies on undergraduate students at four-year institutions and
more specifically on students attending residential institutions.
Tintos model suggests that withdrawing from college is a function
of the interaction between the student and the institution. The
interaction of student attributes and their influence on
commitment to graduate and commitment to the institution form
the bases of student completion or withdrawal.
Pre-entrv Attributes. Pre-entry attributes represent the
characteristics and values students bring to the college consisting
of family background (as measured by social status), personal
attributes (as measured by sex, race, and age), intellectual skills
and abilities, and certain pre-college educational experiences (as
measured by high school grade point average). Tinto states that
these attributes have direct impact on leaving college in the way
34


they affect the students performance during their college stay.
These pre-entry attributes furthermore interact together to shape
the students intentions and goals and commitments.
Goals and Commitments. Goals and commitments represent
the student's dispositions and define the initial level of
commitment to goals and the institution. Tinto argues that
students bring values and personal dispositions to the institution
and these dispositions help shape what the student intends to
accomplish. This stage represents those academic goals and
commitments that the student identifies, such as attending the
community college with the intent of transferring to a four-year
institution to ultimately earn the baccalaureate degree. Goals are
defined as the long or short-term aspiration established by the
student over the course of time to be attained. A students
intention specify the level of education the student aspires to
attain, while commitment indicates the degree to which students
are committed to those goals and the institution.
Institutional Experiences. Institutional experiences consist
of the academic and social systems of the institution. Both
systems are further segmented into formal and informal
35


experiences. Formal academic experiences are those that affect
the student's academic performance, such as classroom
experiences and institutional processes. Informal experiences are
those that bring the student in contact with faculty and staff of the
institution, in such activities as advising.
Tinto identifies the social system as an interaction between
the student and the resources that are available at the institution.
These are identified as extra-curricular activities and peer-group
interactions. In the community college environment the presence
of extra-curricular activities has not been researched to determine
if its presence impact dropping out, but peer group interactions
can impact college withdrawal. Most community college students
have outside commitments and, due to non-residential status,
peer-group interactions can be difficult to measure. Most students
enroll for the main purpose of attending classes and are drawn
away from the institution by other issues. Thus, the social
integration aspect of Tintos model may not fully apply to
community colleges.
Academic and Social Integration. The student's academic
and institutional experiences form the bases for academic and
36


social integration. As part of the academic system integration,
Tinto posits that faculty-student interactions, in which the student
develops a working relationship with the faculty and other
personnel at the institution, are essential to student persistence.
In the community college environment, the attribute may be
measured easily by the accessibility to faculty in and out of class
for additional support, tutoring, and advising.
Academic integration is also measured by a students grade
point average (GPA), an intellectual development that reflects the
students educational expectations and ultimately leads to goal
commitment which influences staying. The student's GPA both at
the community college and at the four-year institution is similarly
influenced by the pre-entry attributes that ultimately affect other
elements of the model. A student's grade point average thus
becomes an important variable that Tinto suggests can be used to
measure academic integration.
Social integration is measured by interaction with other
students at the institution (peer group association), extracurricular
activities, and interaction with college personnel. These factors
lead to social assimilation and thus increase institutional
37


commitment, which reduces the likelihood of dropping out. It is
the confluence of goal commitment and institutional commitment
that determines whether the student stays or leaves.
Outcome. In the final stage of the model, Tinto concludes
that academic and social integration play formal and informal roles
in defining goals and intentions prior to making a decision on
staying or leaving. At this point, the variables of academic
integration, social integration, goals, commitments, and personal
characteristics combine to affect the student's decision to either
stay or drop out. For community college students, the external
commitments weigh equally with the other elements that
contribute to student persistence.
For this study, the outcome stage identifies the ultimate
variable in persistence, which is stated as the attainment of the
baccalaureate degree. The student who earns a baccalaureate
degree can be said to have persisted through the longitudinal
process of processes; conversely, students who do not arrive at this
outcome have not persisted, although other individual goals may
have been accomplished.
38


Applying Tintos model to this study provides a framework
for understanding why some students will persist to earn the
baccalaureate degree while others will not earn the baccalaureate
degree. The relationship between Tintos model and this study is
that this study focuses on non-traditional students who attend
non-residential institutions and are persisting to an initial goal
before earning a baccalaureate degree. Thus, while Tintos model
addresses social integration, this variable is not measured in this
study.
This study measures the completion of the CORE
curriculum, which represents the initial goal commitment on the
way to the baccalaureate degree. Also measured is academic
integration, represented by a student's community college and
four-year institution GPA. Since Tinto states that a student's
personal characteristics of age, ethnicity, gender, prior schooling
and skills and abilities all have various effects on persistence, this
study will analyze the age, ethnicity, and gender variables.
Few students declare CORE completion as a goal; thus, its
accomplishment as a goal commitment is not measurable. This
variable will not be analyzed because the cohort data does not
39


contain student intent. Since students can complete the CORE
curriculum independent of completing the degree, the persistence
to the associate degree will not be measured. Although student
data may indicate that some students have earned the associate
degree, this is for profile purposes. Social integration in terms of
assimilation on campus, student-peer interactions, and student-
staff interaction are also not measured. Community college
students are affected by external attributes (family, work, personal
life) and these attributes help define the amount of interaction
between the student and the institution.
Bean & Metzners Model of Non-Traditional Student Attrition
Bean and Metzner (1985) postulate a model of nontraditional
undergraduate students, depicted in Figure 2.2. Nontraditional
students, according to the model, are defined as over 25 years of
age, attending college part-time, and attending a non-residential
institution. Bean and Metzner add that nontraditional students
40


Figure 2.2: A Conceptual Model of Nontraditional Student Attrition (Bean & Metzner, 1985).


are less influenced by interaction with faculty and peers, than their
traditional counterparts, which was Tinto's (1987) focus. For
nontraditional students, the paramount objective is academic
success, which entails course selection, vocational certification,
and other program-related reasons.
The Bean and Metzner model contents that a student's
dropout decisions is based on four sets of variables: (a) academic
outcome, (b) intent to leave, (c) background and defining variables,
and (d) environmental variables. These variables, although directly
affecting dropout decisions, are influenced by other variables in the
model. According to Bean & Metzner, academic outcome is directly
influenced by a student's academic and background variables.
Intent to leave is heavily influenced by psychological and academic
variables, and somewhat influenced by environmental variables,
and background variables. Finally, the environmental variables
have a substantial direct effect on dropout decisions.
Academic Outcome. Academic outcome, as measured by
grade point average, is a determinant of college attrition. Students
with poor academic performance, as measured by GPA, are more
likely to drop out at higher rates. Academic performance consists
42


primarily of the student's college GPA. In this study, academic
performance is measured on the community college GPA and the
four-year institution GPA.
Intent to Leave. Intent to leave is influenced by
psychological and academic variables, according to Bean and
Metzner. Psychological variables consist of the student's
perception of the usefulness of the educational outcome to
employment, how satisfied they perceive the educational
experience has been, and the students personal goal commitment.
Bean and Metzner posit that positive nonacademic variables, such
as satisfaction with educational experience, can compensate for
low levels of academic success.
Another influence on intent to leave is academic variables,
which consist of study habits, academic advising, absenteeism,
and the availability of courses at the institution. These academic
variables in turn have direct effects on academic outcome (GPA).
The more a student interacts with the institution, the better the
likelihood of the student staying.
Background Variables. Background variables, which include
age, gender, ethnicity, high school performance, educational goals,
43


enrollment status, and residence, affect a students intent to leave.
Bean and Metzner included these variables in the model as a
reminder that past behavior is expected to predict future behavior.
These variables, according to the model, have direct affects on
academic outcome but have possible effects on social interaction
variables, which ultimately could impact college attrition
(Pascarella & Terenzini, 1991; Spady, 1970; Tinto, 1975). The
variables included here are similar to Tinto's (1975) model, except
Bean and Metzner combined into one category those elements
Tinto separated. For instance, Tinto stated that pre-entry
attributes have effects on a student's initial intent; Bean and
Metzner show in their model that intent and goals are part of the
defining variables.
Environmental Variables. Environmental variables of
finances, hours of employment, family responsibilities, outside
encouragement, and opportunity to transfer are expected to have
substantial direct effects on dropout decisions, and have
interaction effects on academic variables. Environmental variables
incorporate those factors that affect persistence of non-traditional
students, focusing on commuter students in particular. Bean and
44


Metzner state that environmental variables are more important for
nontraditional students than academic variables. As shown in the
model, a relationship exists between academic and environmental
variables. Bean and Metzner stated that, if both academic and
environmental variables are favorable for persistence, students
tend to remain in school. Any slight shift in the balance between
these variables will result in the student dropping out of school.
Bean and Metzner conclude that, if academic variables are
positive, such as good grades, but environmental variables are
lacking, the student will still drop out.
Psychological Outcomes. This set of variables include utility
(usefulness of the student's college education), satisfaction (with
the college experience), goal commitment, and stress. Utility
measures a student's perception of the usefulness of the college
education for employment opportunities. If the college experience
does not directly relate to employment, the student will likely drop
out of school.
Satisfaction relates to the degree to which the student enjoys
being in school. Cope and Hannah (1975) stated that a students
lack of attention in their college courses was negatively related to
45


persistence. Goal commitment, similar to Tinto's (1975) goal
commitment, refers to the importance the student ascribes to
completing college.
The model adds another dimension to attrition, by
identifying a relation between academic outcome, GPA, and
psychological outcomes. If students perceive a correlation between
satisfaction, utility, goal commitment and GPA, the student will
more likely stay in college; shifts in the balance between these
relationships will result in attrition.
Compensatory Effects. The Bean and Metzner model shows
a compensatory effect between academic variables and
environmental variables. This means that either of the two sets of
variables can affect the intent to leave or stay. According to Bean
and Metzner, environmental variables are more important for non-
traditional students than academic variables. The model posits
that, if academic and environmental variables are favorable for
persistence, a student should remain in school; when both are
unfavorable for persistence, the student should leave school. In
instances where environmental variables are not in the student's
favor, the student will tend to leave.
46


The Bean and Metzner model differs from Tinto's (1975,
1987) model of institutional departure in that the former focuses
more on nontraditional students in their pursuit of academic
success. Traditional students, as studied by Tinto have internal
subsystems such as close interaction with staff, faculty, and peers
that contribute to their success. Tinto (1975, 1987) state that
social and academic interactions are the key attributes to students'
persistence in college; nontraditional students will persist if their
academic needs are met. The Bean and Metzner (1985) model
contends that social interaction variables are of little importance to
nontraditional students, compared to other variables.
Factors Affecting Academic Experiences
Persistence is defined as the ability to overcome obstacles in
pursuit of a goal. It encompasses the will to persevere to an
ultimate goal in spite of hardships encountered along the way.
Studies in community colleges have been conducted for the
purpose of understanding what obstacle students overcome as
they pursue their higher education goals; such studies have shed
light on why students push to degree completion (pre-defined
47


curriculum) or just personal interests. The literature relating to
student persistence exposed several factors related to why
students stay in (or drop out of) college. Many of these factors are
cited within the theoretical constructs presented by Tinto (1987)
and Bean and Metzner (1985) in their conceptual models.
Whereas Tinto (1987) theorized that academic and social
integration are key to student persistence in college, Bean 8s
Metzner (1985) suggest that three dimensions of factors contribute
to student persistence. These factors are categorized into
individual factors, institutional factors, and the interplay between
student and institution. Individual factors are associated with
Tintos pre-entry attributes, while Bean and Metzner refer to these
as background variables. Tinto does not particularly identify
institutional factors; rather, he identified social integration, which
is the assimilation of the student into the social culture of the
institution.
Bean and Metzner (1985) identified specific characteristics
unique to the institution. Factors resulting from the interplay
between student and institution are identical to Tintos social
integration attributes; Bean and Metzner stated that some
48


characteristics are unique to the interaction between student and
institution. Lenning, Beal, & Sauer (1980) and Pascarella &
Terenzini (1991) also share this view. It is the interaction between
the individual and institutional domains that will provide a basis
for understanding why some students persist in earning the
baccalaureate degree and other students are do not earn the
baccalaureate degree. This section reviews research on individual
factors, institutional factors, and the interplay of individual and
institutional factors.
Personal Factors Affecting Student Persistence
Numerous studies have been undertaken to determine why
students complete or do not complete the baccalaureate degree.
From these studies, a myriad of variables is assumed to affect
student persistence. Age, gender, ethnicity, intent to graduate (or
complete program), college major, academic preparation, personal
goal commitment, academic self-concept, and external factors are
common variables that research has found to influence student
persistence.
49


Age. Studies of student persistence in community college
have shown age and gender to be factors influencing persistence.
Age by itself has shown negative relation to persistence, while
gender by itself has also shown relation to persistence (Bers,
1988). Bers further states that younger students changed majors
more frequently than older students. This is attributed to the
community colleges openness that allows students the freedom to
change majors several times before settling down to a particular
one. Older students have a clearer idea of the major that suits
them than younger students.
Dworkin (1996) studied persistence by 2-year graduates who
were over 30 years old and who transferred to 4-year colleges.
Dworkin concluded that the average age of full-time students was
22 while the average age of part-time students was 33 years.
Dworkin also found that older students tended to enroll part-time.
Astin (1980, 1982) posited that adult community college students
over 25 years old are less likely to complete a four-year degree than
students who started at a four-year institution. In a study of
nontraditional undergraduate students' attrition in higher
education, Bean and Metzner (1985) concluded that older students
50


were more likely to leave college than younger students. Bean and
Metzner (1985) also report that age had a significant positive effect
on GPA. Older students earned higher GPA than younger
students, which supports one of the assumptions of this CORE
studyhigher GPA denotes a commitment to goal attainment.
The use of age as a predictor of persistence has been used in
numerous studies about non-traditional students, for example
Bean and Metzner (1985), Johnson (1987), and Voorhees (1985,
1987). These studies found that a positive association exists
between a student's age and college attrition. Bean and Metzner
(1985) stated that age has an indirect effect on attrition. This
effect is mediated by the fact that older students have more familial
responsibilities, hours of employment, and higher levels of
absenteeism than younger students; thus, the effect of age is
reflected through these variables.
Gender. Bers (1988) studied community college persistence
and the effect of change in student major on persistence. Bers
used age and sex as classification variables to analyze the relation
between gender and persistence. Bers found that males attended
school for significantly longer period than females in certain
51


occupational areas. Males were also found to be slightly less
persistent in liberal arts than females.
Bean and Metzner (1985) posited that gender was likely to
have indirect effects on attrition through family obligations and
opportunity to transfer. Lenning, Beal, & Sauer (1980) support this
claim by positing that sex is not significantly related as a primary
variable to retention or attrition. Most studies on gender and
persistence claim that women gave personal reasons for dropping
out of college while men gave curricula reasons for attrition.
Inconsistencies abound in the conclusions of the myriad studies
on community college persistence as measured by gender.
Females and males give different reasons for dropping out of
college, but gender does not exhibit any direct effects on
persistence.
Voorhees (1987) found that females persisted at higher rates
than males. These gender differences were distributed across
enrollment typesfull-time or part-time. Voorhees (1987) further
showed that enrollment status had no effect within gender; thus,
females persisted more than males regardless of attendance
pattern.
i
i
52


Johnson (1985) reported that women have been shown to be
more concerned with social aspects and satisfaction with the
institution while men were more oriented toward academic
developments. Johnson (1985) adds that integration into the
environment plays an important role in enabling women to perform
better academically; men seemed to perform regardless of their
level of satisfaction with the institution.
Lenning et al. (1980) found that men and women dropped for
different reasons and that persistence of married women was lower
than persistence of single, younger women. Lenning et al.
concluded that gender was not significantly related to persistence.
Ethnicity. Vooorhees (1987) found that no significant
difference exists in attrition rates between minority students and
whites when academic ability and socioeconomic status are
controlled. Lenning et al. (1980) in a study of the difference in
attrition rates of blacks and whites concluded that black students
showed a lower rate of retention than white students did when
controlling for academic ability. Astin (1975) reported that black
students had lower persistence rates than white students. Yet
other studies exhibit no relationship between ethnicity and
53


attrition in 2-year colleges (Brunner et al., 1978; Rice, 1983) as
cited in Bean and Metzner (1985). Bean and Metzner concluded
that ethnicity exerts an indirect effect on non-traditional attrition
through a strong negative influence on GPA as a result of poor
education provided for minority students at the secondary level.
Voorhees (1987) found that minority status did not interact
with a student's rate of persistence, although minority status may
have an effect on other aspects of community college persistence.
Voorhees also stated that minority students were able to transfer
to four-year colleges at a slightly higher rate than non-minority,
but both groups were able to transfer successfully.
Intent to Graduate. Intent is defined as the students
willingness to stay and continue with the course or program. Bean
and Metzner (1985) profess that intent is strongly influenced by
psychological outcomes and other academic variables. Bean and
Metzner (1985) contented that intent to leave is predicted by utility
(usefulness of the education to future employment), age,
opportunity to transfer, and satisfaction. Bean and Metzner also
added that an opportunity to transfer has a significant relationship
with utility indicating that students were more likely to believe that
54


their education would enhance future employment prospects if
they had less opportunity to transfer. They concluded that intent
to leave was more influenced by academic variables than
background variables.
Intent is considered an important variable of persistence and
can be assessed prior to a student leaving an institution (Bean,
1981). It is also important to know that intent as expressed by a
community college student takes on a different framework than a
traditional four-year student. Community college students
typically attend college for the purpose of transferring to a four-
year college, enhancing existing skills, learning new ones, or the
acquisition of additional course credits. Tinto (1987) adds to this
list students who attend college sporadically simply because they
want to learn (nen-occupational goal). Thus, the focus of a
community college student is to take classes and "move on" in life.
College Major. One important aspect of student intent is the
college major chosen. Existing studies have focused more on the
academic and social elements. Simpson (1987) presents a different
view through a students major. Simpson suggests looking at the
pattern of changes in majors as a student proceeds through an
55


institution. Bers (1988) used Simpsons (1987) model to study
community college students and their time in different majors.
Bers (1988) found out that there were significant differences
between male and female, controlling for cumulative GPA in 3
major areas. Males attended for significantly longer terms than
females in career-oriented areas such as information systems and
hospitality management, but were less persistent in liberal arts.
Using academic major to predict persistence can be
deceiving as well as informative. Community college enrollment
tolerates non-declaration of majors for a long time, unless applying
for financial aid. Thus, a students declaration of a major is not
necessarily an indication of goal commitment, although many
community colleges use this variable to determine retention and
persistence. Some students may start in Liberal Arts with the
intent of transferring to a four-year college, but later on,
encountering obstacles or due to academic performance, will
change majors to a more preferable area. This is predicted to
account for a large number of non-completers. It should be
predicated that a large number of students start with the intent to
complete the CORE and later transfer without this attribute.
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Academic Preparation. Tinto (1987) includes high school
education as an important variable in a students preparation for
college work. Bean and Metzner (1985) considers high school GPA,
and other academic variables as having direct effects on college
persistence. If a student was well prepared for college, her or his
attitude towards college (institutional commitment) will be
positively affected, thus, causing the student to stay.
Grimes (1997), in a study comparing college-ready students
with under-prepared students, found that academically under-
prepared community college students demonstrated a lower course
completion rate, attrition, and more external loss of control than
college-ready students; GPA between groups, as well as learning-
study strategies or self-esteem, showed no differences. Grimes
(1997) concluded that college-ready and academically under-
prepared persisters achieved greater levels of academic success, as
measured by course completion rate and GPA. Over time, under-
prepared students could become college-ready which can influence
persistence in college.
Goal commitment. Tinto (1987) considers commitments to
indicate the degree, to which individuals are committed to
57


attainment of a goal, that is, earning a baccalaureate degree. This
study examines two goals. First, the goal of completing the
community college CORE transfer program as the initial precursor
to transferring to a four-year college, and second, the ultimate goal
of earning a baccalaureate degree. Goal commitment is used as a
strong predictor of educational continuance (persistence). A low or
reduced goal can lead to institutional departure (Tinto, 1987).
Conversely, a high commitment to degree attainment may lead a
person to stick it out until transfer (CORE completion) or
baccalaureate degree attainment.
Academic self-concept. Academic self-concept is defined as
confidence in ones ability to be a successful student in college.
The notion of self-concept takes from behavioral science and is
viewed as a central construct for the understanding of people and
their behavior (Johnson, 1985). Self-concept relates to other
factors that directly affect college persistence such as student-
teacher interactions, learning ability, motivation, morale, and
satisfaction with school. In this study, self-concept is expected to
have a direct, positive effect on academic performance, reflected
through GPA.
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Numerous studies have also suggested that higher academic
self-concept and achievement expectancies are related to college
persistence (House, 1992), while low self-concept results in low
grades (academic integration). Covington and Beery (1976) posited
a self-worth model of motivation, which suggests that the driving
force of academic motivation is the maintenance of self-worth. It is
thus surmised that a student with low self-concept is starting off
on the Tinto (1975, 1987) model from a disadvantageous position;
thus establishing a high probability of dropping out of college or in
this study, non-completion of a degree.
External factors. This variable deals with a students
personal life, family, employment and financial preserves and their
effect on college persistence. Tinto (1987) identifies external
commitments as an important variable that affects persistence. A
typical community college student is older (more than 25), is a
commuter, enrolls part-time, not greatly influenced by the colleges
social environment, but is mainly concerned with the institutions
academic offerings, such as courses and degrees (Bean & Metzner,
1985).
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Lenning et al. (1980) theorized that students face a myriad of
personal restrictions that exert a direct effect on persistence.
Among the major restrictions are financial difficulties, family and
personal restrictions, and motivational considerations. Concern
about family and personal problems have been found to be
statistically related to persistence (Johnson, 1987). The greater
the concern about personal problems, the less likely the student
will return. Financial aid has been found to be related directly to
dropping out (Voorhees, 1983). The need to have adequate funds to
attend college is critical, especially for community college students.
The ability to receive financial aid also depends on family needs;
thus, if a student experiences problems at home, the need to
attend college will be less likely.
Institutional Factors That Relate to Student Persistence
The institutional factors consist of: (a) type of institution
(public/private), (b) student services, (c) quality of faculty, (d)
academic programs, (e) institutional policies, and (g) support
services.
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Types of institutions. Pantages and Greedon's study (as
cited in Lenning et al., (1980) considered the college environment
as a major factor in student persistence. The college environment
can be viewed as consisting of the physical environment, student
involvement, and the policies of the institution.
Lenning et al., (1980) claim that students at private colleges
are more likely to persist to degree completion, than students at
public institutions. Students attending public two-year schools
show higher attrition rates than any other type of school. Since
most of the studies of persistence focus on four-year colleges, their
resources (e.g. housing) have been acclaimed to be responsible for
the decreased attrition.
Student activities. Student services function has been
shown to affect persistence. Student services consist mostly of
support service, advising and counseling, and early alert systems
for students with academic problems. Advising assists students
with major selection and course selection, combined with programs
that are aimed at orienting the students with college resources.
Learning resource centers, study skills seminars and other skill
improvement sessions have been known to affect persistence.
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Mission and role of the college determine how colleges work
with students. Lenning et al., (1980) state that an institution with
a clearly defined mission will enjoy high retention rates. A perfect
student-institutional fit exists due to the recruiting skills and
needs of the college.
Institutions with extra curricular activities may have a high
retention rate due to collegiate sports, but research does not show
this to be the case. At community colleges, the presence of extra-
curricular activities may help in social integration by providing
activities for students after class. No relationship has been shown
to exist between extra-curricula activities and persistence.
Quality of faculty. Quality faculty and commitment of
faculty can affect persistence. Tinto considers this an important
element for student-faculty relationships. Faculty can provide
program and course selection advice to students; current faculty
research can be an incentive for students to want to be affiliated
with a particular faculty. The relationship between student and
faculty leads to satisfaction with the institution if it is positive. In
the case of transfer and general education curriculum, the colleges
qualified faculty can emphasize the importance of completing the
62


CORE, the appropriate classes to take before transferring.
Pascarella and Terenzini (1991) found that the frequency of
student-faculty informal contact has a positive effect on
persistence. Relationship between faculty at two-year and four-
year can have a positive effect on persistence. This is seen from
the selection of courses. Faculty should be aware of transfer
hurdles at both ends and be prepared to smoothen out the rough
edges for students. Relationships between faculty at both the
community colleges and four-year institutions can have a positive
effect on persistence (Cohen, 1996).
Academic programs. Academic programs have been found to
have a positive effect on persistence (Astin, 1980). Astin
postulates that students who are involved in the academic thread
of the institution are more prone to program completion, thus
leading to superior academic performance. The quality of
academic programs also has a bearing on persistence. If students
do not perceive the program as quality, thereby not interested in
what is offered, attrition will be high. Applying this to the CORE
curriculum, the institution must emphasize the benefit of
completing the CORE prior to transfer for it to be effective. To
63


enhance CORE completion, community colleges must offer a wide
variety of general education courses.
Academic policies. Policies and procedures are what keep
the colleges on track with their intended mission and goal.
Excessive punitive measures can result in attrition; a colleges
flexibility and willingness to work to the benefit of students can
have a positive effect on persistence. Institutional policies
governing the CORE contain strict procedures that may hinder
students from meeting the requirements. After a student
transfers, the four-year college should be receptive to what the
student has taken thus reducing the amount of non-transferable
credits. Pantages and Greedon (as cited in Lenning et al., 1980)
indicate that humanizing the interactions between students and
college staff would benefit both the institution and the students.
This humanizing interaction can result in student-friendly
relations between student and college faculty and advisors, which
can have a positive effect on CORE completion.
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The Interplay of Student and Institutional
Factors that Affect Persistence
The dominant theme in retention research is that retention
and attrition results from the interactions that take place between
students and the institution (Lenning et al., 1980). It is important
that a perfect fit occur between student and institution; a lack of it
results in students leaving too soon while the presence of it results
in students achieving their goals. Tinto (1975, 1987) emphasized
that the student-institution fit can be established through many
facetssocial integration, peer-group integration, student-faculty
integration, and the student-staff integration. The student must
see benefits and gains from attending the institution and at the
same time, the institution must do the right type of marketing to
attract the student. Students would shop around for the right
institution that they perceive would meet their educational needs;
thus, reasons for attrition if a particular institution fails to meet
that need. A review of existing research identifies some basic
characteristics as having effect on persistence. Tinto (1975, 1987)
partitions them into two domains academic integration and social
65


i
!
integration. To this, Bean and Metzner (1985) add study habits,
academic advising, certainty of major, and course availability.
Academic Integration. In Tintos model, academic
integration consists of academic performance and student-faculty
interaction. Cope and Hannah (1975) state that interaction with
faculty is related to college persistence, especially if that
interaction focuses on course-related matters. Academic
integration encompasses student-faculty interaction, student-staff
interaction, and academic performance.
Student-faculty relationships. Numerous studies have been
undertaken on the importance of student-faculty relationships.
Pascarella and Terenzini (1991) stated that student-faculty
relationships in most institutions are structured, classroom-based,
and formalized. This formalized interaction may create restrictions
on personal interaction between faculty and students (non-
academic), especially at commuter institutions where students are
there just to attend classes. Pacarella and Terenzini posit that the
non-classroom interactions with faculty that are most important to
persistence are those that integrate the students classroom and
non-classroom experiences. In addition, it is assumed that the
i


presence of a faculty member as a role model for the student can
impact persistence. These findings may be true at residential,
large institutions, but since the majority of community colleges are
commuter institutions, coupled with the external forces pulling the
students in all directions, student-faculty interaction may be quite
minimal. Evidence suggests that the net effect of student-faculty
interaction on persistence is, at best, trivial (Bean & Metzner,
1985; Voorhees, 1987).
Relating student-faculty interaction to this study, it can be
posited that student-faculty interaction can positively affect
persistence as it pertains to the selection of the right CORE
courses that will lead to transfer and the student receiving
accurate advising from faculty. If the student perceives the faculty
as high caliber professionals, the decision to stay and complete the
CORE will be easier to make. In addition, if the faculty expresses a
concerted interest in the students success and persistence to
degree, this interaction becomes a valuable resource for other
students; if not, students may resort to self-advising thereby
taking non-transferable courses which can affect persistence at the
four-year institution.
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Grade point average. Another form of academic integration
is academic performance, which is measured entirely by grade
point average (GPA). Pascarella and Terenzini (1991) claim that
the single most revealing indicator of a students successful
adjustment to college is the students grades. These culminate
into a summaiy of grades or grade point average, which depicts
how successful the student has been in college. Though not
delineating an acceptable GPA from a non-acceptable GPA, studies
have shown that students with lower than average GPA tend to
drop from college more than students with higher than average
GPA (Astin, 1980; Lenning et al., 1980; Pascarella & Terenzini,
1991; Tinto, 1975, 1987). In a recent study of community college
transfers, Cejda, Rewey, and Kaylor (1998) concluded that, to
attain a post-transfer GPA of 2.00 or higher, a community college
student must earn a pre-transfer GPA between 2.61 to 3.00.
Besides being a measure of successful adaptation, grades also
reflect desirable work habits and attitudes.
To better understand the influence of grades on persistence,
it should be noted that grades are influenced by a host of
institutional factors. Kulik, Kulik, and Schwalb (1983) conducted
68


a meta-analysis of various studies to evaluate the effectiveness of
special college programs of under-prepared students. Then-
analysis examined the effects of four types of programsadvising
and counseling, comprehensive support services, developmental
studies, and instruction. Kulik, Kulik, and Schwalb (1983)
reported finding a statistically significant effect on grades by these
programs. These effects were mostly felt in the freshman and
sophomore transfer years.
The majority of prior research based their findings on the
four-year residential college in which experimentation with student
grouping, on-campus activities, and other aspects of campus life
was possible. In the community college environment, these types
of institutional programs are also available and have been found to
affect persistence. Lenning et al. (1980) concluded that students
who possessed poor study skills and study habits were more likely
to drop from college. Lenning et al. also suggested that academic
advising was related to student persistence.
Academic advising. Lenning, et al. (1980) suggested that
academic advising is related to student persistence. This variable
was measured for the frequency of student usage and their
69


evaluation of the service. Pascarella and Terenzini (1991) found
that students who persisted in college had used the academic
advising services a lot more than students who dropped out. Other
studies found no significant difference in persistence and
satisfaction with academic advising services.
Academic advising at the community college is a function
that receives an ample amount of criticism in terms of effectiveness
and appropriateness. Students planning to transfer to
baccalaureate institutions are usually recommended to work with
an advisor both at the community college and at the intended
transfer institution. By virtue of the community colleges open
admissions philosophy (practice), academic advising is usually
overlooked by a lot of students. This results in self-advising and
improper course selection; ultimately, this may result in certain
credits not accepted at the transfer institution.
Course availability. Course availability also constitutes a
variable that impacts student persistence. In the case of students
planning to transfer, the availability of courses determines course
selection relative to program completion. Lenning et al. (1980)
contend that course unavailability was related to student attrition.
70


This addresses the availability of courses at the students choice of
time, location and capacity for student demand. Course
unavailability is also the primary reason for attrition of students
who transferred to other institutions.
Choice of major. Choice of major is found to be positively
related to persistence in college. Most importantly, was the
certainty of major. If students felt certain about their choice of
major, they persisted to completion of the chosen major. Simpson
(1987) purports that when students become unhappy with then-
choice of majors, any institutional constraints or policies posing
red tape in the change process resulted in the student dropping
out of school as a way to solve the frustration. This has a direct
correlation with a community college student who has completed
the CORE and encounters problems at the transfer institution in
the department of choice. If the chosen department required more
courses, this may lead to the student dropping out. Choice of
major can also be associated with non-completion of the CORE; a
department requiring more course work may lead a student to
change majors and subsequently, withdraw from school.
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Social Integration. Social integration measured using
students participation in extracurricular activities, peer
relationships, and relationships with instructors have been found
to be less important in subsequent attrition decisions made by
students attending commuter institutions. Social integration was
also found to be of less importance to older students than younger
students (Lenning et al., 1980). It was further found that social
integration had a stronger effect on persistence decisions made by
women, whereas, academic integration was more important for
men (Pascarella & Terenzini, 1991). Social integration is an
attribute that will more likely to contribute to student persistence
by students who attend residential institutions than students who
attend commuter institutions.
Using the Tinto (1975, 1987) model, students informal
contact with faculty outside of the classroom has been a
consistently significant variable in persistence studies. These
interactions involve discussions of career-oriented matters,
according to Pascarella and Terenzini (1991). Bean and Metzner
(1985) further stated that previous studies have shown that no
significant differences were found between dropouts and persisters
72


regarding the degree to which social interaction met their initial
expectations. Among community colleges, Bean and Metzner
(1985) stated that from existing studies, social integration and
attrition were unrelated. The literature suggests that social
integration is rarely a major factor in attrition decisions, and
furthermore, it is not positively related to persistence of
nontraditional students.
Performance at Transfer Institutions
Research shows that students who begin at the community
college are less likely to attain the baccalaureate degree than those
who start at the four-year institution (Astin, 1984, 1993; Cohen,
1993). Students starting at a community college have a less than
30 percent chance of persisting to a bachelors degree (Dougherty,
1987). This lack of persistence has been associated with the lack
of residential facilities at community colleges, lack of student
involvement, and large population of underprepared students. A
student who transfers to a four-year college or university often
must adjust to differences in class and campus size, academic
rigor, and institutional culture (Laanan, 1996). Numerous studies
73


focusing on how community college transfer students perform at
four-year institutions identified two key issues: (a) transfer shock
and (b) the attainment of the baccalaureate degree.
Transfer shock has been found to be the single most
important change a transfer student faces at the transfer
institution. Transfer shock is the measure of the initial drop in
GPA from the community college to the four-year institution
(Cedja, 1997; Cedja & Kaylor, 1997). Hills study (cited in Cedja &
Kaylor, 1997), concluded that the community college transfer
student should expect a significant decline in GPA, ranging from
.30 to .50. Findings from these studies show that in the long term
the performance of the community college transfer student is
similar to that of a native student, and they progress through their
lower division academic work in a pattern similar to native
students (Piland, 1995).
Studies on the baccalaureate degree attainment by
community college transfer students show that community college
students ultimately do complete the baccalaureate degree when
allowed more time. Compared to native students at the four-year
institutions, community college students take up to five years to
74


complete the degree (Glass & Bum, 1998). In a study of the
performance of community college transfers in North Carolina,
Glass and Bum (1998) concluded that, given sufficient time,
community college transfer students complete the bachelors
degree. In addition, the study found that persistence to graduation
was slightly lower for community college students than for native
students, and more community college transfers tended to be
placed on academic probation than native students. These
findings concur with numerous other studies conducted to assess
the performance of community college transfer students at the
senior institution, and their academic preparedness.
Horrell (1992) examined the performance of Colorado's
community college graduates who transferred to three of the states
public four-year institutions to predict the persistence to degree
completion of students who earned the AA, AS, or AGS degree and
transferred as juniors. Horrell (1992) concluded the following: (a)
community college students graduated in an average of 2.7 years
after transfer, compared to 2.5 years for native students; (b) the
average GPA of transfer students at degree completion was 3.5;
and (c) in terms of persistence, gender was found to be a
75


significant variable at one of the institutions and not significant at
others.
Conclusion
The characteristics of academic integration identified above
all have shown to have effects on persistence. Similarly, the same
factors affect student performance. If these elements work
effectively to the students benefits the chances of persisting at
both the community college and the transfer institution has just
increased. The converse is not necessarily true that if all these
elements are not present or not effective, the student will definitely
drop from school. Bean and Metzner's model explains that
environment and background variables have to be balanced to
encourage persistence. Tinto's model also supports the theory that
academic integration and social integration are key attributes that
influence persistence. A mix of these characteristics may suffice in
some instances, while in others the absence of one attribute can
result in a decision to stay or leave.
College academic performance has been shown to be a
consistent and powerful predictor of persistence in numerous
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studies at all types of institutions. Bean and Metzner (1985)
further conclude that GPA may be relatively less predictive of
persistence for part-time and older students who attend commuter
institutions. This conclusion reflects the typical community college
student whose goal is to attend classes and transfer, and can be
extended to the four-year institution if the student attends mostly
on a part-time basis.
This review has examined the many elements that have been
shown to contribute to student persistence. In light of these
perspectives, this study will proceed to examine the analysis of the
data on CORE completers and non-completers to assess if any
differences exists between these categories.
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CHAPTER 3
METHODOLOGY
This study is a quantitative study, using institutionally
collected data, in which significant differences between students who
completed the CORE and students who did not complete the CORE
are measured to ascertain the relationships between the CORE
completion, persistence, and academic performance. This study
examines the relationship between the CORE curriculum,
persistence, and academic performance of first-time, full-time
freshmen entering a Colorado community college from 1989 to 1991.
Grade point average, persistence, and degree attainment
operationalize academic performance. Persistence is defined as
continuous enrollment in a public higher education institution
during a six-academic year timeframe after matriculation, at the
community college and is measured by transfer rates. Grade point
average (GPA) will be used to compare the academic performance
over a long period of time. The third variable, baccalaureate degree
completion, is used as the ultimate dependent variable.
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Two groups of students were identified for this study. The first
group includes students who completed the CORE curriculum
(completers); the second group includes students who did not
complete the CORE curriculum (non-completers). The CORE
requirements are met if (a) the student completed the minimum
number of credits of prescribed general education core curriculum
courses (33 credits for AS and 34 credits for AA), (b) and the notation
CORE CURRICULUM COMPLETED is printed on the students
transcript. For the purpose of this study, a non-completer is a
student who does not meet the above requirements.
Research Questions
To assess the differences in student persistence and
subsequent academic performance at the transfer institution, the
following research questions were posed:
1. Does the performance of the two groups differ
significantly by age (pre-entry attributes)?
2. Does the performance of the two groups differ
significantly by gender (pre-entiy attributes)?
3. Does the performance of the two groups differ
significantly by ethnicity (pre-entry attributes)?
79


4. Does the performance of the two groups differ
significantly by transfer rates to four-year institutions
(goal commitment)?
5. Does the performance of the two groups differ
significandy by community college GPA (academic
integration)?
6. Does the performance of the two groups differ
significantly by four-year institution GPA (academic
integration)?
7. Does the performance of the two groups differ
significantly by completing the baccalaureate degree
(goal attainment)?
8. Does the performance of the two groups differ
significantly by time-to-degree of baccalaureate degree
(persistence)?
These research questions each serve two purposes: first, to
determine the persistence of each group, defined by the independent
variables; and second, to assess the academic performance of
students who persisted to baccalaureate degree completion.
Previous research on community college academic
performance suggests that demographic variables of age, gender, and
ethnicity effect student persistence. According to Tinto (1975, 1987),
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academic integration is reflected initially through high college grades
which are correlated with collegiate grade-point average, another
factor of academic performance. Baccalaureate degree completion is
also an indication of college integration since this indicates college
commitment and goal commitment. Student persistence will be
determined by comparing the relationships of academic performance,
academic background, and demographics.
Certain demographic characteristics have been tested and
found to have direct effect on student persistence. Mutter (1992), for
example, studied students at a large Mid-western community college
and found that gender and ethnicity accounted for more significant
differences in students persistence to degrees at 2-year than 4-year
institutions. The hypothesis of this study is based on the notion
that if a student integrates into the academic environment, the
likelihood of persistence to degree completion (goal attainment) is
strong.
Research Design
Kerlinger (1986) defines research design as "the plan,
structure and strategy of investigation conceived so as to obtain
81


answers to research questions and to control variance" (p. 275).
This study utilized the Ex Post Facto research methodology to
investigate possible relationships between CORE completion and
baccalaureate degree attainment. Ex Post Facto research is that in
which the independent variable(s) have already occurred and in
which the researcher starts with the observation of a dependent
variable (Kerlinger, 1965; Tuckman, 1988). In this study, all
outcomes have occurred. Kerlinger (1986) identified that the
investigation starts with the observation of the dependent variable;
in this study, the ultimate dependent variable is bachelors degree
attainment. Kerlinger (1986) goes on to indicate that the
independent variable or variables have occurredCORE completion.
Two approaches are identified in Ex Post Facto design, namely,
causal (or co-relational) and criterion-group (Cohen & Manion, 1989;
Tuckman (1988). The causal approach aims to determine the
relationship between data variables in a data sampledoes A cause
B? The criterion-group approach attempts to establish hypotheses
about causes of conditions by contrasting characteristics of one state
with its opposite (Tuckman, 1988). This study used the criterion-
group approach to determine the factors underlying academic
82


performance differences between CORE completers and CORE non-
completers. In the criterion-group approach, the investigator sets
out to discover possible causes of a phenomenon by comparing
subjects in whom the variable is present with those in whom it is not
present (Tuckman, 1988). The phenomenon studied is how each
group of completers and non-completers persist to completing the
baccalaureate degree.
One weakness of the Ex Post Facto research design is its
inability to assume a simple causal relation between independent
and dependent variables (Tuckman, 1988, p. 160). Tuckman (1988)
states that if a predicted relationship is obtained, this does not
indicate a cause-effect relationship; it is only possible to identify
potential causes. Kerlinger (1986) further identifies two other
weaknesses: (a) the inability to manipulate independent variables,
and (b) the lack of power to randomize. Simply stated, Ex Post Facto
research lacks control. In this study, the independent variables age,
ethnicity, and gender can not be controlled to test their effects on
CORE completion. Similarly, since they have already occurred, one
cannot manipulate persistence, grade point average, or transfer rates
to examine their impact on baccalaureate degree completion.
83


Subjects
The population for the study was community college students
enrolled as first-time, full-time, degree-seeking students in fall of
1989, 1990, and 1991. These years were chosen to allow the use of
consistent cohort data of six years after transferring to a four-year
institution. Table 3.1 shows the frequencies of the initial cohort data
of each community college. A total of 15,475 students were
identified in the cohort. The table shows representation from all 15
public community colleges, including the number of students and
percentage of the cohort.
These cohort data consist of students who enrolled at all 15
state community colleges but the analysis will be performed on those
students who attended the eleven CCCOES colleges, due to the
inaccessibility to CORE completion data of the local district colleges
and 4-year schools. Among those who transferred to a Colorado
84


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