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Title: Understanding commitment in students' persistence decisions 
Author: Savage, Matthew W
Date: 2008-05
Abstract: Just as individuals are faced with the decision to stay or leave their relationships, students are faced with the important decision to persist or depart their colleges or universities before graduation. Student departure, defined as leaving an institution prior to graduation, is a problem for institutions of higher education. In 1982, Tinto emphasized that over the last 100 years the national rate of student departure from colleges and universities has remained constant at 45 percent. Today's departure rates are no better; recently the American College Testing Program reported that nationwide 60 percent of students at four-year public institutions departed their institutions before graduating (ACT Institutional Data File, 2006). These statistics are descriptive of university dynamics and students' goals, academic experiences, social interaction, and commitment to their institutions. As colleges compete for student enrollment, retention rates serve as an important source of information to guide students and their families in choosing which institution to attend. Current rates of student departure, then, adversely affect the public's perception of the quality of colleges and universities (Braxton, Hirschy, & McClendon, 2004). In fact, widely publicized national rankings, such as those in the U.S. News and World Report, use retention statistics as a measure of university quality when ranking institutions. Thus, advancing scholarship concerning college student departure is important for both students and universities. A consistent recommendation of research regarding college student departure has been to focus on understanding 'institutional commitment,' or more precisely students' commitment to their institutions (Braxton & Lee, 2005; Braxton, Sullivan, & Johnson, 2 1997). Students' commitment has been extensively investigated through Tinto's model of student persistence (1993). An overarching limitation of past research on this commitment has been that investigations have operated from the student perspective, not considering an institution's commitment to students. However, both student commitment and institution commitment are relevant in the higher education setting. Other disciplines have examined commitment as well. For example, commitment is a well studied concept within the discipline of relational communication, and understanding the transactional nature of commitment between students and their institutions may be much like understanding how commitment exists within romantic relationships. As such, the purpose of this investigation is to extend the theoretical understanding of Tinto' s model of student persistence by drawing on relational communication research to elaborate on the role of commitment in student departure. To accomplish this, an initial overview of college student departure literature will be presented. This will be followed by an explanation of Tinto's Interactionalist Theory, a critique of Tinto's (1993) model of student persistence, and the current research on students' commitment to an institution. Next, a clarification of the conceptualization and measurement of commitment will be offered, followed by an examination of institutions' commitment to students. Students' subsequent commitment and persistence will then be discussed. Finally, commitment will be examined through a relational framework for understanding commitment.
Description: Thesis (M.A.)--University of Hawaii at Manoa, 2008.
Pages/Duration: vii, 83 leaves
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10125/20384
Rights: All UHM dissertations and theses are protected by copyright. They may be viewed from this source for any purpose, but reproduction or distribution in any format is prohibited without written permission from the copyright owner.

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