The relationship between student involvement factors and graduation rates of nontraditional students attending a public community college in the Southeast
Jones, Todd Glen
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The purpose of this quantitative study was to examine the relationship between involvement types and risk factors that may have contributed to the degree completion for a group of nontraditional community college students. Alexander Astin’s (1975, 1993) student involvement theory has been used for over forty-years to examine student persistence rates of traditional students attending four-year institutions. This research study expanded the work of Astin (1993) to include nontraditional students who graduated from a public community college in the Southeast. The participants in this study consisted of 124 graduates from a public community college located in the Southeast. The data obtained in this study were analyzed using ANOVA tests, t-tests, and randomized block design in order to examine the relationship between the risk factors and involvement levels of the community college graduates. The results of this study revealed that the majority of graduates in this population were considered to be moderately nontraditional (79%) since they exhibited at least two or three risk factors. The leading risk factors associated with this sample of students were part-time enrollment at 73.20%, being financially independent at 64.95%, and delayed enrollment in college at 42.39%. The statistical analyzes employed in this study revealed that nontraditional students who completed their degrees indicated they had significantly higher levels of academic involvement and interaction with peers than with other types of involvement. In addition, females in this study were found to exhibit significantly higher levels of academic involvement than males. The results of this study support findings from national studies that indicate the dramatic shift in student populations nationwide especially at two-year institutions (NCES, 2008). Since the majority of today’s college students exhibit at least one risk factor, researchers need to re-conceptualize their understanding of what it means to be a traditional student in today’s college setting. Researchers must also re-examine retention theories that were based largely on homogeneous student populations. If not, graduation rates will continue to remain unchanged.