Student aid and persistence in public community colleges

TR Number



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Virginia Tech


The purpose of this study was to test a conceptual model for assessing the effects of student aid on community college student persistence. A sample consisting of all students who had entered a public community college during the 1980 fall term was drawn from the database of High School and Beyond, 1980 Senior Cohort. Omitting transfer students brought the sample size to 1,364 students. The model of student persistence was based on Tinto's theory of student integration and prior research that suggested student aid may be related to the persistence of community college students. Persistence was defined as the number of terms of enrollment over a two year period (1980-81 and 1981-82).

Receipt of aid was associated with lower socioeconomic status, higher tuition charges, above average high school grades, and an ethnic background other than Asian or non-Hispanic white. Aid recipients considered college costs and the availability of aid more important factors in their college choice.

A model of student persistence composed of eight exogenous and five endogenous variables was tested through path analysis. It was found that the receipt of student aid did not have significant effects on any of the subsequent variables in the model. Estimation of a reduced path model omitting the aid variable did not result in a significant reduction in explained variance. Degree goals, initial expectation regarding higher education, encouragement to attend college, academic integration, and full-time work were the most important influences on persistence. These findings validated the importance of some of the major constructs in the theory of student integration, but they did not support the research hypothesis that student aid recipients would have a higher rate of persistence than nonrecipients when other factors were held constant. Since encouragement from significant others had a strong and positive association with student persistence, it was suggested that future research consider the role of encouragement on persistence.