Dropouts from community colleges: path analysis of a national sample

TR Number



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University


The purpose of this study was to determine the extent to which Tinto's model of the dropout process applied to a national sample of community college students. Strict definitions of persistence were used in applying a Tinto-based model to both 2- and 4-year student samples from the High School and Beyond (HSB) data set. The primary focus of the study was to determine the relative effects of social and academic integration, in relation to student background characteristics, on two measures of persistence: persistence in the institution, and persistence in higher education.

The data were analyzed using path analyses procedures. Results only partially supported Tinto's theory. Major findings revealed that: 1) background variables directly affected persistence, no matter how defined, 2) the ability of Tinto's model to explain persistence may be highly dependent on the criteria used in defining persistence, 3) the model may better explain institutional persistence than persistence in the system of higher education, 4) student background characteristics may be more influential than institutional characteristics in explaining the long term persistence behavior of students, 5) results indicated that the Tinto model's ability to explain persistence was dependent upon the criteria used for defining persistence/dropout.