Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Education, Educational Leadership & Policy Studies

Date of Defense

12-13-2011

Graduate Advisor

Lloyd I Richardson, Ph.D.

Co-Advisor

Kent Farnsworth, Ph.D.

Committee

Joseph Polman

Dixie Kohn, Ph.D.

Abstract

Among the multitude of challenges and adversities students face during their first year of higher education, many experience deterioration of their emotional or mental health. Current research focuses on the perceived rise in the breadth and complexity of student mental health concerns at four-year colleges and universities. Even though community college students encompass the majority of individuals enrolled in the United States higher education system, no research specifically examines the mental health prevalence of these students and whether these difficulties negatively impact persistence. This study explored the relationship between evidence of mental health problems and fall-to-spring persistence for first-year students at a small size Midwestern community college. Quantitative data were collected from a voluntary survey administered to students enrolled in the Fall term freshman orientation courses. The survey identified psychological symptoms and distress as measured by eight distinct Counseling Center Assessment of Psychological Symptoms (CCAPS-62) subscales, prior mental health treatment, gender, age, financial aid status, and employment status as possible predictor variables of student persistence. Persistence was evaluated by successful completion of the fall semester and enrollment in spring semester classes. Descriptive statistics, bivariate correlation data, and logistic regression analysis were used in this study. The findings provided evidence of the presence of mental health concerns among first-year community college students. Social anxiety and academic distress were the most commonly reported difficulties. Counseling services and the use of psychotropic medication were the most frequently sought after types of mental health treatment. Students who reported higher levels of academic distress also reported more depression and generalized anxiety symptoms. However, the logistic regression analyses failed to confirm that students’ mental health concerns or treatment were predictive of fall semester completion or spring semester reenrollment status.

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