Reasons why students decide to leave a university
Authors: Hiromi Masunaga, Tianni Zhou
Abstract: This project was designed to expand our understanding about (1) who drops out, and (2) what predicts student attrition in the first two years at a university. The university where this project has been conducted is a 4-year Hispanic Serving institution in California. The university currently involves approximately 34,000 undergraduate students, 44% of whom are from Hispanic/Latino background. Other groups are Asian (20%), White (16%), and African-American, American Indian and others (15%). We invited freshmen and sophomores to participate in this project when they had no registered courses two months after the registration period started (i.e., approximately three weeks before the start of the following semester). Our understanding was that the delay in the registration reflected cognitive and non-cognitive factors that would seriously and negatively impact continuous enrollment. A series of surveys and focus groups examined students’ decision-making motives and non-cognitive factors that would inhibit their academic progress, retention, and success. Non-cognitive reasons examined are:1. Financial problems, 2. Poor secondary school preparation, 3. Undecided/ Unsatisfactory majors, 4. Conflict with work and family commitments, 5. Increasing difficulty in academic success/progress, 6. Lack of quality time with faculty and counselors, 7. De-motivating school environment, 8. Undesirable experiences in classes, and 9. Lack of student support (Bownan et al., 2019; Goldrick-Rab, 2018; Kim, 2019; Kirp, 2019ab; Moody, 2019; Sagenmuller, 2019; Saunders-Scott, et al., 2018; Silver Wolf et al., 2017; Yool, 2019). This project additionally examined the impact from COVID-19. As compared to those participants who intended to return to the university, those who indicated that they would not return to the university presented a wider range of inhibiting factors, including: •Financial difficulties •Undecided, Undeclared, Undesirable, & Unsuitable Majors•Difficulties in maintaining good Academic Progress•Not being in contact with faculty & counselors•Not being connected with faculty & advisors•Perceived non-support - “Please reach out to me!”•Intimidation - Difficulty in reaching out to instructors or counselors•Low levels of awareness, access and use of University Support Services•Lack of understanding/support for college education from family•Lack of support on family needs that conflict with academic pursuit•Multitudes of obligations (e.g., financial, caregiving)•Some self-regulatory factors (e.g., time management, procrastination, goal setting)•Difficulty in online modalities of instruction during COVID-19The findings suggest a strong need to systematically support students who struggle. The majority of struggling students are first-time college students in the family, and low-income and under-represented students who have been strongly affected by COVID-19. When struggled, those students were not necessarily aware of campus resources or did not utilize the existing support services even when they were aware. Students sought individualized advising and wanted to be reached out. In order to promote students’ success, a holistic system must be built. For instance, it might be helpful if we try to: (1) unite financial aid, career advising, physical and mental health support, counseling, and academic support in order to ease access by students, and (2) promote student sense of belonging and connectedness as soon as they start their college lives.
Keywords: College Student Attrition, Student Success, Student Services to Support Struggling Students
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