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Document Type

Dissertation - University Access Only

Award Date


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department / School

Rural Sociology

First Advisor

Diane Kayongo-Male


The research problem for this study was to determine how pre-entry attributes of entering freshmen, initial levels of goals and commitments, and first-year experiences in college were related to persistence behavior at a small, state university in the upper-Midwest region of the United States. A longitudinal design employing two survey questionnaires and institutional data was used to provide a description and prediction of the persistence behavior of freshmen students. One hundred sixty-five freshmen, comprising 46 percent of the population, completed both surveys and represented the sample for this study. The Tinto model of voluntary student departure from institutions of higher education provided the theoretical model for this research. Responses to the College Student Experiences Questionnaire were used to operationalize the social and academic integration constructs. Responses to the College Student Inventory were used to operationalize the goals and commitments constructs, as well as the pre-entry attributes. Logistic regression was used to determine whether characteristics of freshmen and their first-year experiences could be used to predict persistence behavior. Four measures of goals/ commitments and integration proved to be significant predictors of persistence behavior, including: library experiences, institutional commitment, cumulative grade point average, and degree aspirations. Although the pre-entry attribute of gender did not prove to be a significant predictor of persistence, the predictors of female persistence differed from those of male persistence. The biggest persistence predictor for women was academic (library experiences) while the biggest persistence predictor for men was social (student acquaintances). The differences between predictors of male persistence and female persistence had their bases in both entry-level characteristics as well as in the different ways males and females experienced the college environment. The results of this research provide further evidence supporting Tinto's model of voluntary student departure from institutions of higher education. The results suggest that both the student's incoming characteristics and first-year experiences are important variables in predicting persistence behavior. The results of this research also provide practical information to university policy makers. Programs to increase freshman integration into the university communities are recommended.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

College freshmen
College attendance
College dropouts -- Prevention




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