Document Type



Doctor of Education


Adult & Higher Education

Date of Defense


Graduate Advisor

Charles D. Schmitz, Ph.D.


Patricia Somers, Ph.D.

Shawn Woodhouse, Ph.D.

James Cofer, Ed.D.


Estimating the persistence of first-time students from the first year to the second year of college is a growing social and financial concern for postsecondary education. Studying how socioeconomic status affects year-to-year persistence may help to identify and assist those students who had socioeconomic profiles most likely to indicate challenges to year-to-year persistence.

This study used data from the Beginning Postsecondary Students Longitudinal Study (BPS:96/98). BPS is a nationally representative survey designed to provide additional information about the patterns of educational attainment and persistence for a subset of the more than 51,000 students included in the NPSAS:96 survey. This study used all students enrolled as first-time beginning students at two-year and four-year institutions.

The purpose of this study was to develop and test a theoretical framework to describe the year-to-year persistence of beginning postsecondary education students at both two-year and four-year institutions. The preliminary model included 39 literature-based variables coded and grouped into seven factors: background, high school, college-entry, financial, social integration, academic integration, and college performance. The data were tested using descriptive statistics and logistic regression to determine the correct predictive percentage of the models for first-generation and continuing-generation students, only first-generation students, and only continuing-generation students at both two-year and four-year institutions.

The tested models can be used as a method to identify students who may struggle with persistence decisions. Identification of students in need may help postsecondary educators to provide services and interventions that will facilitate the year-to-year persistence of these students. This model could be easily adapted to a specific institution, and the validity of the model assessed longitudinally with year-to-year persistence of the students.

Social capital variables, particularly student integration to the collegiate environment, are strongly associated with persistence of first-generation students at both types of institutions. Contact between the student and faculty member outside of the classroom environment is critical to the persistence of students. The student must match with the social and academic environment of the campus.

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