College Student Attrition and Retention

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Leonard Ramist

This study reviews research on college student attrition and retention examining overall dropout rates and the reasons students give for dropping out. Also examined are the demographic, academic, motivational, and personal characteristics of students who are likely to drop out and how general college environmental factors relate to persistence. College programs that would upgrade the level of educational service, thereby encouraging students to stay, are also examined. Based on a representative cross section of four-year colleges, the study found that 35-40 percent of entering freshmen graduate in four years from their college of original entry. The reasons students give for dropping out include academic matters, financial difficulties, motivational problems, personal considerations, dissatisfaction with college, military service, full-time jobs, the expressed need for new, practical, nonacademic experiences, and the lack of initial plans to obtain a degree. While some college environments are more conducive to persistence than others, most research has concluded that the fit between student and college is an important factor (e.g., a student from a small town is more likely to persist at a small college).

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