Degree Completion Among College Students and Astin's Student Typology Framework
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Degree completion is an issue for stakeholders and others concerned with higher education (Astin, 1997; Braxton, 2000; Porter & National Institute of Independent Colleges and Universities, 1990; Selingo, 2001). The research on degree completion in American higher education is extensive. Studies have been conducted on differences in degree completion by demographics (Pascarella, Smart, & Stoecker, 1989; Pritchard & Wilson, 2003), high school performance (Lewallen, 1993; Stage & Rushin, 1993; Tracey & Sedlacek, 1987), and college performance (DesJardins, Ahlburg, & McCall, 2002; Hu & St John, 2001; Tinto, 1997). Other work in higher education however has looked at how to classify students using student types. Astin developed one of these approaches. Despite the voluminous research conducted on persistence, no one has examined the issue of degree completion using Astin's (1993) student typology. The purpose of this study was to explore degree completion among college students. It employed Astin's (1993) student typology to explore differences between degree completers and dropouts. Specifically, it examined differences between degree completers and dropouts within and across Astin types by demographic characteristics, high school academic performance, and college academic performance. The data analyzed in the study were collected from entering freshmen, by cohort, from 1994 to 1997 at three different institutions: a public master's institution in the northeast; a private liberal arts institution in the northeast; and, a public research extensive institution in the mid-Atlantic. There were two sets of data employed in the study. The first set included responses to the Annual Freshman Survey (AFS) of the Cooperative Institutional Research Program (CIRP) (Sax, Lindholm, Astin, Korn, & Mahoney, 2002). The second set included institutional student data records consisting of demographic characteristics of participants and high school and college performance measures. This study examined degree completion among college students using Astin's (1993) student typology framework. The results of this research contributed to the existing body of literature on degree completion. This study was complex and yielded a mix of statistically significant findings. However, four key findings emerged from this study. First, degree completers are more likely to earn better high school grades than dropouts. Second, middle and high-income students are more likely to graduate from college than low-income students. Third, for Status Striver type students, other (non-academic) background variables predict college academic performance in terms of college GPA and total college credits. Fourth, for Social Activist type students, other (non-academic) background variables predict grades earned in college. These findings present a new direction for research on degree completion and research-based student typologies.
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