Pinpointing Reasons for Mainland College Student Attrition in Hawai‘i

Zezeck, Heather
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[Honolulu] : [University of Hawaii at Manoa], [December 2016]
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Although the number of students entering college in the United States continues to grow, a greater number of students, especially at-risk students (e.g., White first generation, Black, and Latino college students) are failing to obtain a degree. Contrary to schools on the continental United States, at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, students from out of state, who are predominantly White, are the most likely to leave the university before obtaining a degree. Using a mixed-methods approach, the present research seeks to understand why this group of students—who are not typically considered at-risk—is failing to persist. Historically it has been difficult to know if attrition occurs because of experiences while at the university or because of previous learning, behaviors, and individual differences related to academic success that students bring to the university. I examined these issues considering factors from Tinto’s (1987) and Bean and Eton’s (2000) models of persistence and different levels of university and Hawai‘i based identity. In Study 1, potential predictors of persistence were reviewed through a quantitative survey of 73 students (27 White, 45 East Asian). In Study 2, qualitative interviews with 9 out of state, White students, investigated motivating factors of attrition. The interview results were then used to triangulate and add depth to survey data. Results indicated that intention to persist was more strongly tied to students’ sense of belonging with both the university and the local population than to students’ college skills or academic mindsets. For both students from out of state and from Hawaii, the strongest associations with planned persistence emerged with the non-academic psychological measures (e.g., similarity with various groups and university belonging). Interestingly, for out of state students, feelings of similarity with “Hawaii locals” was most strongly associated with plans to persist through graduation. Interviews more fully illustrated the struggle out of state students faced in both finding a sense of belonging in Hawai‘i and in initiating cross-cultural friendships as well as their desire to learn about new cultures in Hawai’i. While more research is needed to understand both this process and the potential implications of these findings, this research illustrates psychological mechanisms that may be important for improving persistence for all students.
M.A. University of Hawaii at Manoa 2016.
Includes bibliographical references.
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Theses for the degree of Master of Arts (University of Hawaii at Manoa). Psychology
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