A vast amount of literature exists on the topic of college student retention. However, there is still much to be learned about the process a student goes through to decide whether to stay in school or depart at an early stage without accomplishing the intended goal of completing a college education.
Most of the research that has been done in the area of student retention has been geared to a homogeneous group of students abstractly referred to as the traditional college student. Since the number of studies about non-traditional students has been limited, the focus of this research was to study the non-traditional student, the adult student who tries to balance school, work and family responsibilities to the best of his or her ability. In particular, the purpose of this quantitative, experimental research study was to determine if academic integration, social integration, and socio-demographic characteristics have a significant influence on college student retention.
A quantitative, experimental research design was conducted to answer research questions and to test the hypotheses. Also, an exploratory study was performed to investigate the relationship among socio-demographic characteristics, academic and social integration, and retention of non-traditional students. The target population for this study consisted of a convenient sample of all eligible degree-seeking incoming freshmen students starting at the University during the first month of the summer and the first month of the fall semester of the 2007 academic year. Upon approval by IRB, all incoming degree-seeking freshmen students for a given month were randomly assigned during the process of registration to the experimental or to the control groups. A total of 95 students participated in the study. Data was analyzed using SPSS version 14.0. To answer Research Questions and Hypotheses, descriptive statistics of variables, including Chi-Square tests and ANOVA, regression analyses, including correlational and step-wise regressions, were utilized.
There are two implications derived from this study. The first implication of this study indicates that social integration is paramount in the student's decision to stay in school. The environmental influence, according to Bean and Metzner (1985), is more important than the academic variables for non-traditional students. The second implication of this study indicates that certain retention strategies could be set in place to help those students identified with specific socio-demographic characteristics in pre-enrollment data. The research found that four factors, student's age group, native language spoken at home, parents' educational level, and the number of hours the students worked daily, were constant predictors that impact student retention. The results of this study can be used as a baseline for future studies to learn more about the factors that influence retention of non-traditional undergraduate students for the benefit of the students, schools and society as a whole.