Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access

Award Date


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department / School

Sociology and Rural Studies

First Advisor

Robert M. Dimit


This research study developed from a continuing interest by the writer in the various factors associated with student college persistence and stability of program choice. Institutions of higher learning are becoming increasingly concerned in these times of declining enrollments about the need for greater congruence between institutional planning and the services provided to the potential and enrolled student body. Relationships between selected (1) socioeconomic, academic, and self concept variables and (2) college persistence and stability of program choice were investigated in this study. The research was centered around the view of the self as a phenomenal self. Reference group theory was the basic theoretical orientation utilized as a systematic approach to deal with the problem of the concept of the self as it is influenced by groups in the social environment. Such concepts as normative and comparative reference groups, negative and positive reference groups, and anticipatory socialization were very helpful in analyzing the results obtained in the study. The three sample population groups of the study consisted of 1.51 students who changed college within South Dakota State University for the fall semester of 1972, 91 students who withdrew during the 1972 fall term, and a random sample of 256 students who persisted in enrollment and had not changed college. All of the 498 students included in the study were full-tine undergraduate students at South Dakota State University. The Clinical form of the Tennessee Self Concept Scale was used to collect selected self concept data on the various student groups. The writer updated and revised Warner's Index of Status Characteristics for use as the instrument to determine social class standing of students included in this study. Various other socioeconomic and academic data were also obtained on the sample groups. A chi square test was used when nominal scale variables were cross-classified, The least squares analysis of variance and a step[1]wise multiple regression procedure were used when the required assumptions for these tests could be satisfied, The level of significance was set at the .05 level and research hypotheses were put into null form for testing. Conclusions were as follows: 1. Social class standing of students at South Dakota State University was not found to be significantly related to (1) stability of program choice, or (2) persistence of enrollment. Seventy-nine per cent of the students came from middle class homes (Classes III or IV). 2. The average ACT composite score and GPA for students withdrawing from South Dakota State University were significantly lower than for students who persisted in enrollment or changed college. 3. The TSCS holds little promise for use in predicting (1) changing, persisting, or withdrawing enrollment, or (2) social cl ass standing of students. Significant differences were obtained between social class standing and the TSCS variables of Identity, Behavior, Family Self and Social Self. 4. College persistence and stability of program choice were not significantly related to size of the student's graduating class, size of home community, or having a high school counselor. 5. Significant relationships were found between subjective estimates of social class standing and objective estimates of social class. 6. The null hypotheses of no difference in educational and occupational aspirations among changers, persisters and withdrawers were rejected. Significant differences were also obtained for the three sample groups between the educational and occupational levels of parents and aspiration levels of students. 7. Multi-factor approaches to measuring social class are more reliable than single factor methods. 8. Increased knowledge of academic and socioeconomic characteristics of students is imperative for implementing effective measures to attract and retain students.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Social choice
College students




South Dakota State University

Included in

Sociology Commons